Monday, December 31, 2012

Little Things- Revisited

Do you remember way back when I decided to jump on the naming bandwagon and determined that 2012 was to be the year of The Little Things? Oh, if only I'd known then what I know now.  This has been a year of big things - gifts, changes, losses, growth - it all seems so much.

Of course, I'm aware just like you are, that fully present in the big things are myriad of little things.  And, I think that's part of why it's been a good exercise for me to adjust my focus from the wide take it all in angle and zoom in on detail.

We haven't changed that much.  We still struggle with bringing our projects totally to completion.
 What about you - do you agree that most of the time mostly done is done enough?  I mean, what's the line?  I finally (after three years of folks driving past our country home and having a peep show into every window), have drurtains- yes, you read that right - a hybrid of drapes and curtains on most of the windows in the house.  Sure, they're hung with plumbing hardware and I wouldn't try and fool 'ya into thinking they're a fancy job.  Made from drop cloths and table cloths they are.  And, they would rocket to the top of Nester's class from stray pins that remain after truly, intentionally, and with wild abandon having mistreated those windows to a "t"!

Taken to a point, are the window mistreaments done?  Technically, no.  Do they cover the windows, insulate, and look real purty?  Fer shure.

So, which way do you lean?  Are they done?  Can I cross them off the project list?  Or, should I yield to the more particular types who might push me a little further, to the point of actually threading up the sewing machine and dedicating space on my dining room table to finished seams?

Hmmm- this isn't exactly how I saw this post coming together in my head.  I'm highly distractable like that.  It grew dark while I typed, and I drew the drurtains across the windows, and there ya' go...I'm onto something unplanned.

If we haven't changed that much, it means we still live each day with optimism, enuthusiasm, and hope for a better future.  We still take on huge projects.  Like our pole barn.  I alluded to it in the 31 Days of Green Acres series.  Weekend Farmer Husband finished up in the garden, set up our final round of Freedom Ranger Chickens, and took on what felt like another whole house renovation.

In fact, our pole barn is just 200 sq. feet smaller than our home - for perspective, my living room is just a little over 200 square feet total, so it was like taking on the whole house except that one room.  It was just a shell, metal walls and roof covering a dismal dirt floor.  It now has a concrete floor, electricity, a ceiling, walls, high speed internet, insulation, lighting, a wood stove, doors, windows - phew!  Lots of ibuprofen and countless hours later he's not done, but the space is delightfully useful.  We can hardly believe how much it has positively impacted our life and our gratitude cup overflows.

Have we massaged the little things enough to be more timely on a consistent basis? Yes.
Have we sent out Christmas cards?  No.
Have we done a much better job at training ourselves to complete all the steps of cleaning up after a meal?  Yes.
Do we remember to take the compost and trash out every time?  No.
For those of you concerned about our habit of leaving doors open we're about 50/50 on that challenge.  Yup, still a growth area.

I don't want to miss it in all the prattle going on here - the little things really do morph into the big things don't they?  Or maybe it's the other way around.

Like, when Weekend Farmer Husband lost his job, that was big.  Really big.  But, God in his favor towards us, granted us months of little moments together.  Some of those moments were really awful - big arguments just boiling over and us behaving badly in light of grief, uncertainty, and turmoil.  But the little phrase, "Please forgive me" built bridges and restored hurts, and we found the time together grew more consistently pleasant, something to be savored and preserved as we continued to pursue eventual re-employment.

We raised lots of animals and found our way through big challenges produced by extreme weather.  Drought is a powerful master and although it is no little thing, it was in the end paying attention to details that allowed us to interpret how the animals were faring, respond to their needs, minimize suffering from soaring temperatures, and provide our customers with the best product we know how to produce.

I missed him in a million little ways, and when we released our firstborn son it was a big step.  Little by little we were able to change our perspective from how much we missed him to how much he was enlarging from his time away.  He returned to us, and lots of little changes add up to a big shift.  He came home a man.

It's no little thing that Weekend Farmer Husband is back to work. He has big challenges ahead and we have to relearn the myriad of little things we need to do in a day to serve him and encourage him in his role of faithfully providing for the life we lead.

So, for always gravitating toward the big picture, we slowly prove ourselves capable of sweating the small stuff when appropriate.

I don't plan to "name" 2013.
I plan to wait in expectation for and then participate in what comes.
And, I hope you'll come.  Back here, that is.
Because whatever it is, little or big, it is made so much more worthwhile when I know you're with me.
I write.
You read
If I've done it well, these symbols on a screen welcome you every time.
And so, together, we journey.

Blessing to you friend as we close 2012, and step with gratitude and boldness into 2013!

Psssst- If you send me a message AND your address, I'd be delighted to send you a Christmas card with the above photo...that is, when I get to them! xoxo

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

31 Days of Green Acres - Christmas Outtake

Many blessings to you friend on this Christmas Day.

One of my hopes as a writer is to present the Truth of Jesus Christ, a risen, loving, personal, and all powerful Savior,

 who as God incarnate came as a helpless babe to this broken world,

 lived a sinless life,

 poured himself out in ministry and service,

loved deeply,

 and then in supreme and voluntary obedience to God the Father,

stretched out and hung on a cross,

 and offered His life as a blood sacrifice for Adam's fallen race,

that His righteousness might be attributed to those dead in their sins,

 who by the great grace of God Almighty,

were made alive,

and the once dead hearts of those He foreknew were born again,

 that they may be called sons and daughters of God.

What mystery.

Each of those sweeping statements, clauses, Truths above has impacted and changed my life forever.

Good news.

And whatever story I'm here to tell - whether it's the completion of the long drawn out 31 Days of Green Acres, a new animal adventure, a family story - the Truest story I must tell is the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My words falter, my thoughts jumble, and my fingers pause when considering how to tell, what to tell, when to tell that I belong body and soul to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If you know me in "real life" the hesitations above are likely to surprise you.  In the context of face to face relationship I am much more confident, maybe even equipped, to tell this good news and to invite you to open the Holy Scriptures with me and drink deeply from the living water Jesus Christ offers.

I'd be quick to invite you in, and as we broke bread together, we'd talk about Jesus Christ, the bread of life.

As we celebrated life in the pure pleasure of being together, I'd pause and ask you to join me in joyful recognition that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the Life.

Broken and in need of redemption, I'd offer you my feeble strengths, beg your grace for my ongoing frailties, and humbly ask your companionable patience as I am refined and live in constant awe that my eternal salvation is complete because of what Christ has done.

Today, on this Christmas, I'd ask you to walk with me, and as we breathe deep the crisp winter air and glory in the dusting of snow on the ground, I'd share with you how Emmanuel, God with us, has changed everything.

Made all things new.

Filled a broken creation and a flawed human race with hope.

Renews, Redeems, and Restores because of His great love.

Love that came naked, helpless, subject to frail humanity.

Love that grew in wisdom and favor with God and man.

Love that fed the hungry, taught the masses, healed the sick, became obedient to death on a cross, and bore the sin of the world.

Love that is constant, eternal, boundless, and free.

So whatever picture you see here, whatever turn of phrase that catches your attention, whatever tip, trick, or homesteading "know- how" you might glean, above all may you come to know that Liberty Farm is place where we live this abundant life because of Jesus.

And that makes this much more than a Christmas outtake.

Jesus Christ - the reason we can, do, and often make merry.
Because from His fullness we have received grace upon grace.

Wishing you the most lovely of Christmases, filled to the full with grace upon grace.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

31 Days to Green Acres - Day 26

Welcome! This post if part of a 31 Day Series. To read other entries, please click here. 

If I had a beard, I would have stroked it smooth in the wrestling, wrangling, and writing of this post.  Do you ever have something you want to say and because of an awareness of the possible sensitivity of the topic you tweak a script in your head?  So reader, take care, I'm going to try and carefully, respectfully, and diligently wrestle with one of the more difficult roles of raising animals.

You know, don't you, that I am selective about the images and ideas I post here.  You can come see how we really live anytime - the water is almost always ready to refresh your tea cup, or if a cuppa smoky Joe is for you, come on in.  Dive into our rich, messy, relational, adventuresome life and share it to the full.  But, I've spoken of this before.  Homesteading, farming, redeeming a lost house and property is hard core.  I try to not overwhelm with pictures of the mess, the lengthy weeks of unfinished projects cluttering up useful spaces, or the baser elements of working with animals.

 But, it must be done.  I cannot share this life, or your dream of country life, raising your own food, being more self sufficient, (if that is what you long for), and fail to include the eyes forced open, jaw set, heart racing moments when you look into the eyes of the animal, give thanks for its life and how it will sustain yours, and then pull the trigger or draw the knife.

I've recently shared with you the defining moment when in our down time, following one of our major projects, we responsively and somewhat impulsively decided to bring animals to the farm.  Our initial ambition  was to personally reject the feedlot model of bringing beef to our family table.  We were horrified and grossed out at our ignorant participation in what we have come to believe is an unsustainable and unsuitable industrial production paradigm.

(An important aside here...there is a lot of passion for a lot of folks surrounding these topics.  I hope I'm able to avoid a sanctimonious or righteous tone. I believe their, our, passion is appropriate   But sometimes, our passion acts as a roadblock to kindness, respect, and civil discourse.  My experience is that passionate people have much to agree on, but are strangely prone to focus on disagreements. Although that focus is not wrong, it can lead to wounding words and blind assumptions that do harm.  I pray we are spared.)

Mercifully, our first year was easy.  Grass grew abundantly.  We experienced zero predator problems.  Water flowed freely and it was neither too hot nor too cold.  And, our cows were particularly amenable, cute, and powerhouses of feed conversion.  A good season assisted us in our first slaughter since our yield had come easily.  That is, we worked hard, but were easily rewarded.  And, oh, there was a delightful increase of satisfaction, variety, and flavor at the family table.

You saw it, didn't you.  The word jumps out at me.  Slaughter.  It must be done to complete a season's cycle and to fulfill the purpose for which the animal was brought on the farm.  But no matter how many times I swallow hard, set my resolve, and do what must be done, I find that each time I grow more sensitive and appreciative of life's rythyms, rituals, and sacrifices.

On on small scale, we are accomplishing what we set out to do.  That is rewarding.  But it comes at a cost.  Yes, we make up front financial commitments each season hoping for a return, but that is only a part.  We invest time, sweat, hours, muscles, space, free time, and freedom to actively enact and advocate change in food supply practices.  We do it for ourselves.  We do it for our customers.  And we do it for our animals.

Humane practices have become so important to us.  And, we are such rookies.  With only two seasons under our farm belts we barely know what we're talking about.  But, the quality of the animal's life matters to us, and not just because of the product yielded, but because of a reverence and respect for the design and dignity of the animal.

This year was hard.  Extremes of weather and personal circumstances tested our limits.  In hindsight, we took on more than we should have, but who could know that so many variables would converge with such intensity?  The animals required much of us, and there were times when in exhaustion or defeat we would find ourselves guilty of the very practices we critique.  We'd fail to get fresh water in the most timely manner, or we wouldn't move animals to fresh pasture soon enough, and the balance would quickly tip into a redirect of energy and attention so that the animals were better served.  That all required more effort.  And with greater effort the yield is more hard fought, and in our case, emotions more fragile.  Near the surface.

Alternately, because of greater emotional exposure, we find ourselves more grateful and more broken at the end of the season.  Grateful that we were able to finish the animals and the butcher says the product looks great.  He says, "You guys nailed it."  That's no small praise and we trust our customers will concur.

Broken because when we bedded the cows down one last time in a confined pasture we knew we'd greet them at the fence in the morning with a rifle.  I can see the place they last lay from my bed.  Their imprint is still fresh in the grass, and even though our laying hens make short work of cleaning up the nasty business left behind, there are sections of green carpet that are still slick red.

Yesterday we killed our cows.  How else do you say it?  Quickly, steadily, without wavering the trigger pulled back and the barrel released it's bullets in quick succession, and cows bent low, yielding their lives to us.

Friend, come to your table with thanks for the life sacrifice an animal made to sustain you.  Remember the farmer who serves both you and the animal.  Join me in gratitude for eyes to see this beautiful broken life we share.  And, please, if you still long for a little piece of this grand journey, be resolved to do hard things.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Building a Bridge - can I even get from 25 to 26?

It's all good here on Liberty Farm.  The wheels of life have been spinning merrily along and I'm thwarted at every turn when it comes to finding my way to the keyboard.  I must have written at least 39 blog posts (in my imagination) today alone...and it seems like hundreds of ideas and words have knocked around in my grey matter for the month preceding, but alas, they may only remain sentence fragments in my head.

Unless...I resume the tap dance here.  The key stroking, story editing, picture taking, chronicling habit that brings me to the keys, and the heart skippity happy sound that comes from them pressed down, forming into words that fill the empty space and breathe life back into this routine.

Yes, I have some unfinished business here.  Y'all need to come set a spell while I wrap up 31 Days of Green Acres.  I owe you six. Phew-I can't even think that far ahead.  Getting from Day 25 to 26 is going to be quite enough of a stretch, not because of the content, but because of absence.  And, heavens to Betsy, I still haven't got those bovine beauties to wrap up their gripping tail ahem, tale, of their weekend away. Seems like that story might be a good fit in the series.

But first, an update.

It's a good one.

Weekend Farmer Husband is once again gainfully employed.  He'll be working in the same industry, doing the same thing, in the same/similar region, and, as before, will be able to spend most of his office time in his home office.  His "official" start date is likely to be next Monday and while I'm filled with profound gratitude for the return of income to our life, I'm kinda wiggy about the transition we'll undergo.  He's enjoyed every moment of Full Time Farmer, and there wasn't a day that he couldn't find something productive and enjoyable to do, so the return to corporate culture and its demands seems overwhelming.  He's ready though.  For that, I am thankful.

Lacking a graceful transition other than the photograph above I'll plunge right into one of the "things" that's kept me a little distracted from writing. I've been challenged, reawakened, engaged, and blessed to participate in an online book club hosted by the effervescent, brilliant, one and only Edie, from life{in}grace..  Y'all should pop on over and meet her.  You'll come away warmed, inspired, convicted, and probably wanting your very own pair of cowboy boots.  I also hope you'll be interested in reading along as a few of us nerds unite to page by page read through the classics of Western Literature.  The first two books we read, Homer's Odyssey, and Antigone by Sophocles, were (dare I say it...?) a breeze and blew through the cobwebs of my mind to clear out the accumulated clutter of an active but too often unintentional mind.

 Plato?  The Republic?  Kicking me in the backside it is.  I am so looking forward to the online discussion starting.  I think it'll be a little like a literature based 30 Day Shred!  What?  You aren't interested in that kind of pain?  Me neither.  That's why there's so many other books on the stack.  I can only keep my eyeballs on the pages of The Republic for a short time before I'm unable to keep my attention.  The seed catalogs, library books, and over all easier reading have kept my reading muskles, ( you should be hearing Popeye here folks...), from seizing up.

What's this about a bridge?  After all that's in the title. Well, nothing really.  It was just a way to step into this gap and with words build a metaphorical bridge of sorts to help close the space between where I left off and where I must continue to go.  So would you pretty please leave this poor beggar a comment and let me know you've come visiting?  Us country folk love a good chat.

Monday, November 12, 2012

31 Days to Green Acres - Day 25

Welcome.  This is one of many entries as part of a 31 Day series.  To read earlier posts, please click here.

We're at it again.  You know, another one of our massive, all encompassing, exciting, draining projects.  And, while we're at it, life still chugs along here with it's regular and harvest time activities. I am grateful to be here today, to serve the words and the story that is still developing.  Thank you for coming back and for patiently walking alongside.  You make the journey more full.

Neither Weekend Farmer Husband nor I had any intentions for animals on the farm beyond a couple of laying hens and a cat.  The house restoration consumed all our energy until we moved in, and once we could camp comfortably in our own home, we quickly moved on to repairing the roof on the animal barn and installing a 44 panel solar array.

An aside - if you have read the Little House on the Prairie books or any other stories/series of the USA's early frontier and settlement days the idea of squatters sort of captures what the moving to the farm experience felt (and sometime still feels) like. The departure is that we have legal rights to occupy the property, but at some level I feel like we still have to earn the privilege of being here.  Do we have what it takes to save this house, bring new life to the land, and preserve the buildings? Somehow this relates to camping on our own home...and proving our mettle.

The old board and batten wood sided animal barn is probably original to the property.  There are no nails holding the structure together, just solid wooden pegs, and the dimensional lumber and support beams appear to be hand hewn, massive markers of an earlier time.  At some point in the mid 90's, near as we can tell, a concrete floor was added, electricity was upgraded, and a pole barn added on to form a "T" to the north.  There are multiple animals stalls, a water source, and a hay loft.  Clearly this structure was built to shelter animals.  Off to the side there's a lean to constructed of (no kidding), old wooden grocery store and wine boxes, covered with metal siding and a slapped on metal roof.  It made the perfect "shop" and likely held larger motorized equipment sometime after the upgrades were completed.

Weekend Farmer Husband noodled long and hard burning through notebook after notebook of scribbled details to prepare for the roof tear down, rebuild, and solar installation.  Until our current project (yes, yes, I'll tell you eventually), I've never seen him think so long and hard on any one thing.  Thinking soon became implementing, and we were up on the roof tearing away and tossing aside wooden shakes that had weathered better than a century.

If we'd known then what we know now, we'd have anticipated that this was another pre dawn to post sunset project.  Every weekend, evening, and any other conceivable other "free" time was dedicated to the barn.  And, no matter how much planning, there is always the unexpected.  But, we persevered  not just because snow would fly soon, but because we have a contract to sell the power we produce and our consumer expected us to complete by the agreed upon deadline.

In hindsight, it was a crazy dangerous thing we did. We wouldn't repeat it - at least not without changing a number of practices.  After all, we were 26 feet in the air at a 33 degree pitch - imagine a metal playground slide a little better than two stories high and you are handling costly, fragile, and dangerous tools and supplies while holding steady at the very top of the slope. Even with harnesses and safety equipment you are exposed and vulnerable to mistakes, poor planning, harsh weather, and the plain old randomness that we call accidents.

We passed inspections, hook ups were completed, the basic installation was finished and the snow came.  Literally, we laid our tools down, came off the roof and didn't revisit the project until the following spring.  Most of our tools got put away, but some of those tools we laid down brought a good chuckle the following season as the thaw revealed their whereabouts.

Finally, some rest.  We'd occupied Libby for seven months, and between Christmas and New Year's we installed the bathtub in the lower level bathroom.  Oh the bliss of a long soak and the relief of warm after the brutal cold of the barn roof.  And, I should be very clear, I never went on the roof.  This project was completed entirely by Weekend Farmer Husband, our offspring, and friends from church.  One of Weekend Farmer Husband's clients lent us some valuable tools and heavy equipment that made the job so much easier, but when I say "we", I really mean "them".

We watched lots of movies at night in the ensuing months.  Tired doesn't even begin to describe the lethargy we felt.  The indoor and screen time was fun and restorative.  After unrelenting work, work, work it was bonding and settling to sink into the couch after supper and veg.

When we ran out of comedies, family, and adventure type movies to share I started watching documentaries.  Both Weekend Farmer Husband and I gobble up that genre of program with the key difference his interests run to giant squid and deep sea type things (no, I'm not making that up), and I am drawn to social commentary type films.

After watching a number of compelling programs about food, nutrition, and food production by myself, I invited Weekend Farmer Husband to watch with me.  At first he wondered why I watched, "such depressing movies".  His kindness kept him at my side and I could see that he was warily engaged in buy in on the surface of the issues.

It was Food, Inc. that had just concluded when I caught his eye and said, "We should get a cow."

He didn't say no.

Friday, November 2, 2012

31 Days to Green Acres - Day 24

This post is one in a 31 Day series.  To find other entries, please click here.

I think you've gotten a pretty comprehensive and overwhelming view into the total renovation of our farmhouse.  One friend says I made him tired.  We actually hear that quite a bit.  When people visit and get "the tour" they are often astounded at the before and after.  And, yes, you too will have a tour.  We just have quite a bit of recovery to do after a week of illness (and did I mention a broken washing machine...?), before I'm willing to take pictures.  I know it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful, but I always clean up before I invite guests in, be you friend or family!

I don't know how it happened.  In the broadest sense I'd like to view it as God's gentle leading as He taught me a greater reverence for creation. That's sounds a little hooity tooity - what I'm trying to say is this.

I was, at best (before we moved to the farm), tolerant, bordering on indifferent, toward animals.

To meet me now, you'd think I'd been an animal lover for the whole of my life.

There were 3 failed attempts at pet ownership during my growing up years, and one doesn't even really count for me because I was away at college when a puppy came home for one of my siblings.  When I was a preschooler, we had a duck and sometime around late Kindergarten/First grade a golden retriever.  Neither "experiment" lasted too long, and although I have warm memories of Chatterduck and Chava, I don't have any sense that I especially longed to have them back once they were no longer part of our home.  Maybe I shed some tears when we put Chatterduck in a brown box and released her at a local forest preserve - or was it a park - I can't recall.  I was four people.

I never really "got it" - you know - animal people.  In fact, I probably used that term in my high school english class as an example of an oxymoron.  I was willing to accept that other's passion for all creatures usually defined by a kind was exactly that - a passion, and although I didn't understand it, I could see that it was real and ran deep.

Early in our family life,Weekend Farmer Husband and I brought home a really nice golden retriever, McKenzie.  She was a beautiful dog with a very sweet temperament, and she added a lot to our family life. Until the very last months of her life however, I was only capable of measuring her contribution in terms of stink in the house, mud on the floor, and epic hairballs in every nook and cranny.

She moved to the farm with us and spent her last days in doggie utopia.  I am pretty sure she smiled for 15 months straight.  One day she stopped smiling and we knew it was the end.  No one was surprised.  But everyone was shocked when I cried.

Something in my heart had started to connect with her, with the chickens in the coop, the kittens in the barn, and the cows in the field, and even the skittish, yippy, goofy dog who was her companion in the last months.

If you noticed that this indifferent to animals person had a partial barn and property full of warm blooded creatures before she began to identify an affinity to them, you've caught on.  It came late and caught me unawares.

The chickens came first.  It just made sense that with all the space in the barn and the 4-6 dozen eggs our family eats in a week that we should have chickens.  (This should settle it once and for all you folks who want to know what came's always the chicken)

And then, we had lots of feed - and lots of mice.  So we got cats.
I watched my children fall in love.
Even the big burly man boys were and are smitten.
I felt myself warm.

I was bowled over by my affection for the cows.
Their presence in our pasture was a source of joy for me.
They have distinct personalities and they're very social and mostly sweet.
(Disclaimer - we have a weird one this year.  We'll be glad to see her go, but the other three are quite nice)
I search for them every day, feel deeply responsible for their well being even though I do none of the associated chores, and yup, I actually talk to them.

No time, no particular event, no revelation stands out as the clear moment when I began to "get" animals and animal people.  All I know is that it's been delightful.  The richness of experience and the sense of abundance that animals on the farm have produced is both real and perceived.

Real because as robust omnivores, we provide for our pantry, freezer, table, and our need for food by the work or our hands.  The abundance is evident in our larder.  (Does anyone even use that word anymore?).

Perceived because the ambiance, atmosphere, and level of relationship that the animals bring to family life, the land, and their role in this redemptive journey is difficult to capture in words or image.  A producing farm yields and overflowing cup - at least for us.

Now, it's not always rosy.  There's many a cold night that we're out in the barn keeping chicks from freezing when - it's no lie - we'd rather be under our cozy electric blanket.

And, yes, cows do run away and take years off of one's anticipated  lifespan for the stress of it all.

It's true- some chickens aren't very smart, (but some are...), and the meat birds are particularly smelly.

Have I let you know how much work this all is?  It's hard, and it's constant, and there's nobody else to do it but you.

But at the end of all the work and even in the middle of it, there's joy.
Getting a glimpse of what God might have been thinking when he fashioned a cow is such fun.
Learning to "think like a chicken" is funny and in the end proves to be effective!
Observing and participating in the complete life cycle of a meat bird helps you to see just how intricate life is, and that drumstick on your plate represents thousands of little life events to form the whole product you bring to the table.

We're almost to the end of our production cycle for this year.
I find myself lingering at the fence a little longer, gazing out the window to drink in the view of a full pasture more often than usual, and counting the days until it's done so that I don't fail to savor any that remain.

This is still so new.
I don't know when it'll feel normal - like it's "always" been that way.
But it is very welcome.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 Days of Green Acres - Day 23

Welcome!  This post is part of a 31 Day series.  If you'd like to read other entries, please click here.

Well now, that was an unanticipated absence.  Our large family likes to share, which makes a perfect companion for pathogens of the virus type.  Five of the eight of us fell victim to the flu.  Slowly we are returning to health, and I can nurture wellness at home and give some attention to this story.  I work well under pressure, but it's clearly beyond me to fit the last seven days into the one remaining day of October.  So, we'll revise the project, yes?  And I'll just keep telling the story.

I've mentioned more than once that for substantial portions of the initial demolition and renovation process our family was divided.  You'll remember then that a great deal of mess making and future building occurred while I kept our city life humming along off site.

From a writer's standpoint it is more difficult to give shape the chronology and events with my words since although I have primary accounts of what happened, I would go for weeks at a time without laying my eyes on our progress.  In hindsight I'm grateful for the capacity Weekend Farmer Husband and I had to trust one another and the level of optimism we cultivated and protected in order to press on.

I don't have lots of construction stories to tell or "how to's" to offer for the six months we spent dedicated to initial interior renovations.

I did take lots of pictures though when I made the trip out to the country.

So, for today at least (and maybe beyond), I'll try to tell the story with images and offer my limited words about the scope of the project pictured.

You've seen this hallway before - from the other direction.
Unbelievably, although we've stripped away so much, we're going to take it even further - doors gone, 2x4 framing gone, and yes, we even got rid of the mouse's nest visible in the header.

The only thing I can think of when I see this floor again is "nerve damage".  Weekend Farmer Husband spent 4 days with a heat gun and 2 inch scraper to get the tar, asbestos tile, and adhesive  off what had earlier discovered are hand milled maple planks.  When he finished, he'd sustained sufficient nerve damage in his shoulder that it took months for him to recover from numbness and tingling.  

Really?  You can't tell what this is?  Well, since there wasn't any heat or cool in the upstairs, we ran a trunk from the basement, into the attic, and then like an octopus, arms branch out into the different rooms in the second story from the attic.  As for the rest of the space, well can't you just picture it?  It's the en suite bath for the master bedroom!  It can get pretty cozy in there during the winter months thanks to that great big metal thing ushering air from the furnace to the upstairs!

The upstairs demolition has long since been completed, but we're still not done stripping away layers. We've started to get some insulation on the walls, but have managed for now to preserve some of the striking pink trim...ahem.  Even though we're indoors we're wearing winter gear and trying to judiciously use the kerosene heater.  Baby it's cold!  For the record, this photo is taken from inside what was to become the girls room closet, you're looking through the boys room, and into the master through the worlds coziest and perhaps smallest master bathroom.

This picture's kind of're standing between what is eventually to become the entrance to the master bath, and the opposite wall.  The blue trim on the left will be replaced and the room door hung there.  See the planking?  We quickly discovered that our home utilized balloon frame construction and see the varying sizes of the boards?  We have reason to believe the much of the wood for the home was hand milled on site.  It's hard as rock and sturdy.  Although the house is a little drafty still, it's stands firm in storms.

One of the most important spaces in the home, the future site of a half bath in the upstairs hallway.  There was this startlingly large landing area at the top of the stairs that appeared to never have been used for any purpose other than connecting the top of the stairs with the hallway leading to the kids bedrooms.  It's the most diminutive room in the house, barely measuring a hair over 20 square feet!

We did a floor to ceiling demo (and then some) to the bathroom on the main floor.  Measuring 7 feet wide and 13 feet long, it is a generous space, but the previous owners had vastly underused it's potential.

You're getting it now aren't you?  Of course we rebuilt the ceiling, ran new ductwork, exhaust lines, and electric!

Standing inside the bathroom and looking at where the shower used to be, you're viewing the future home of a stacking washer and dryer, a very large cold air return (covered by a bulkhead) and wire shelves for laundry supplies and such.  The door to the bathroom is just off the kitchen.

Score!  We've found an old claw foot tub on Craigslist.  It will need to be refinished, and it eventually is - but, it doesn't get installed until 7 months after we move in!!!

Some people might call this a kitchen counter.  Not so.  This is the drop spot for the daily (well probably not really...) supply run to the local hardware store.  Occasionally it would get cleared off for minimal food preparation...I didn't ask too many questions about those practices.  I'm the mother of sons - there are some things I prefer not to know.

Frankly, there are hundreds of additional photos that detail the metamorphosis.  Please, come visit.  I'll speak to you in my love language of hospitality, a good drink (coffee, tea, a glass of wine...), plentiful fresh food,  and share the images. But, I'm starting to think that for the purposes of this series, you've got a pretty good idea of the scope of what we took on.

A couple of readers have had some queries that give me new ideas for other posts.  Will you chime in too?  
I'd love to answer your questions and comments - what gaps have I left so far, or what seems obvious to you that I'm just too close to notice?

I'm so so glad you came back! 
Do it again, yes?
There's more to tell.

Thank you Nester for creating the 31 Days series.  Although my socks got knocked quite off last week and I've not been faithfully posting, I've been so grateful for the opportunity.
Have you checked out the other bloggers who took up the gauntlet?  They're pretty amazing...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 Days to Green Acres - Interrupted

This post is smack dab in the middle of  31 Days series.  It has nothing to do with the topic.
If you'd like to read entries from the Green Acres posts, please click here.

We've been cooking along on 31 Days to Green Acres pretty well haven't we?

I don't think I've been as disciplined to write with this frequency ever before.
In college there was more time between assignments, and even if they were frequent, I definitely pulled an all nighter tended to concentrate my efforts right before the due date rather than write every day.

I've appreciated the discipline of being here and my brain feels more awake in relationship to content.
I still at least on a emotional level, if not practical, wrestle with what and how of organizing story.
So, we keep coming here, right?
Me to tell the story, and then you to read, and we grow in relationship.

Several weeks ago, in early October, we were given a glorious Indian Summer day and the youngest of the children and I whisked away to the lake shore to glory in the beauty of creation.

We'll be enjoying another unseasonably warm day at the farm today. Gift.
But, I'll not be devoting much time to the blog.

Illness has laid us low and this mama must nurture a return to health.

Come back, yes?
I will, and I always do so with the hope of meeting you here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

31 Days to Green Acres - Day 22

Welcome.  This post is one of many in a 31 Days series.  If you'd like to read the other entries, please click here.

It's a funny  thing with demolition.  Only a few minutes of heavy blows with the hammer or crowbar produces hours of follow up work and restoration.

You can loose your perspective a little bit - both ways.
Either you feel like , "Aw, look at that pile.  It's already so huge we might as well keep going.  What's another couple sheets of drywall anyway?"
Or, you can barely breathe, and not because of the dust, but rather you have shocking and sudden clarity on what you've just destroyed, and have a jolting realization that it's up to you to put it all back together again.
These perspectives share the stage.
Sometimes they share the song and dance number, and sometimes, (only briefly), they have a solo act.

One of the welcome gifts for us in restoring Liberty Farm was that Libby has never looked too awful from the outside.

In fact, she can be downright welcoming and cheery standing tall among the trees on the slight rise to the property.

That's her on the day we first met.  I saw her first.  It wasn't long before I called Weekend Farmer Husband and made arrangements for him to meet me.  We wrote an offer within hours of our first meeting.

A few other factors made and still make the property inviting.
Wide open pastures are the perfect canvas for a frame of trees on the property line, and tall grasses bend a hello.  Tall old trees stoop to greet us.  Ten fenced acres hem us in and define what has seemed like a vast expanse to this city girl.  The long U shaped driveway makes an easy entrance and a gentle farewell.

All this loveliness became all the more dear as soon as you walked in the door.  Your senses assaulted, all one wanted to do was make it go away.

So we did.

First we removed floor coverings in all sections of the house except the bathroom, kitchen, and back entry.
Above is a photo of one end of the living room and below is the upstairs hallway where the kids bedrooms are.

Then the walls started coming down.
This perspective below no longer exists.
There's now a wall where you see the sawn off 2x4's, and 3 bunks from floor to ceiling on the boys room side and a double closet on the girls side.

The black and blue trim?  Oh yeah, that's a thing of the past.
Again, this view has vanished, but the photo was taken from what is now the boys room looking through to what became the girls room.

"Hey guys, have you seen my hammer?"
For reals - our friend's hammer is somewhere in an area landfill.
We never found it in the pile above and eventually the mountain of debris was carted off to the dumpster.

Notice won't you that there's still lap on the walls, studs to frame rooms, and ceilings in these photographs.
I wasn't around to take the pictures, but that all went away.
The upstairs was gutted to the  inside surface of the exterior boards, and only one 6-8 foot section of wall remained in the interior space.
We re-framed the entire upstairs save for the one little section of load bearing wall I just mentioned.

I don't exactly remember how long it took us to make this much of a mess.
Confidently, I can assure you that it was only a matter of days.

Thank you Nester for being such a gracious hostess.  
Have you enjoyed checking in on the other 31 Days Bloggers?