Monday, December 10, 2012

Farm Bureau Annual Conference

This week, we had something happen that has never happened before. The boys and I left home on a trip and Jeff stayed at home with the girls. At first, we were all supposed to attend the Georgia Farm Bureau Annual Conference, but the day before we were supposed to leave, we still had not found anyone who could take care of the animals for us. Jeff decided to stay and hold down the fort.

 The day that the boys and I were leaving, I was already feeling the unusually relaxed state I was in. I did not have to pack blankets, paci's, spill proof cups, coloring books, dvd's, nor did I have to make lists upon lists of ideas that will keep the two girls occupied and happy. No pullups. No wipes. The boys grabbed some clothes, movies, and their school work, and we hit the road. I was asked twice what time we would leave. It felt great to be able to answer, "Whenever". We headed out fairly late, stopping by for an hour and a half shopping trip on the way. Why? Because we needed some things... but mostly, because we could.

Thanks to Mim's GPS, we made it to St. Simons by 1am. Asa was bouncing off the walls! While Addison brushed his teeth in a zombie state, Asa unpacked all of the kitchen items and organized the snacks. Like his daddy, Asa has two phases: irritable/grumpy and bouncy/wide open. He was wide open. The trip was spent attending conferences... some very helpful, and some that didn't apply to me in the least. I always learn so much from the other Young Farmer Chairs, though. These are the people who I feel actually understand what we are trying to do, what our concerns are, and know who I should talk to in order to get questions answered.

The boys were troopers the entire time! When I was in meetings, they were completing their school work. But, whenever I had down time, we tried to squeeze in some fun. Once, we stopped on the side of the road at a little park area to feed the seagulls a biscuit. Addison even put down his book for that! The day before our trip, Addison bought three books. Two were from the Lorien Legacies series. The other was the second Michael Vey book. He has averaged one book a day, and these are not small books! I finally had to forbid him to read in the car, cranked up "Play That Funky Music", and made him participate in some good old fashion parent-induced embarrassment. The only time he has really socialized with me is when I got to hear his hour and a half dissertation on his new strategy to the game "Risk". Seeing as I have never played Risk, nor do I have the desire to play, it was a very one way discussion. He did also look up to see the salt water marshes off of the bridge from one island to the next. He said, "Just imagine those marshes in all directions, as far as you can see.... and imagine you were on foot with Sam and Gollum." Right.

We are really enjoying the time together. We've played board games at night, watched movies, and just appreciated the fact that we could walk from one place to another without having a temper tantrum or a whiny episode about not having the right sparkly shoes on. The boys are getting a great break from the girls. I am getting a great break from the monotonous and unwavering demands of domestic life.

Jeff, on the other hand, has sent me quite a few texts that read, "Your job is hard."  By the looks of things in the frequent photo messages I'm getting, he's having a great time with them.  But, I am also hearing how glad he'll be to relinquish domestic control to the master!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Inman Farm Heritage Days 2012

It's that time of year again!

We spent the weekend down on Minter's Farm for Inman Farm Heritage Days weekend.   Having your own personal shuttle that picks you up right outside your door and delivers you to BBQ and boiled peanuts is just plain AWESOME. This year, we had a booth set up for the homeschool class.

We had an agriculture exhibit for our program, displaying what the students have been working on in class. We took farm animal donations from our amazing farm friends, and raffled them to go toward our field trip fund! My main concern through all this was that I not be stuck with all of the donated animals. I had no idea how well something like this would work, but I figured that it would be a lot of fun... and that my agriculture class would be able to show off all that they have learned so far. Much to my surprise and delight, everything raffled off on the first day! Now I know... animals are a HIT!   The class made $185 toward the spring field trip, and we had a fabulous (albeit exhausting) weekend!

Addison particularly loved selling the tickets. He took up money, made change, and explained the raffle to the guests. It was definitely his cup of tea! Asa, as well as some of his classmates, did an awesome job explaining the act of disbudding to those who asked if the baby goats' horns were growing in. The kids jumped right in and explained that they were disbudded, and described how. They all really showed me that they DO pay attention in class!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Tiny Cow

Our neighbor came by to bring us some very appreciated fresh ground beef today.  He had taken one of his cows to slaughter, and had more than he could fit in the freezer.  Not only did we get lucky enough to have some awesome, local beef... but the girls and I jumped in the truck and went for a little field trip!  We saw the baby calves, nursing.  We drove around the pasture, checking out the cows and Longhorn steers, horses, and donkeys!  The girls rode through the tall grass, their heads hanging out the window like golden retrievers.  It was great!

That afternoon, Olive came to me, holding some invisible thing between her chubby fingers.

She asked me, "Do you see?!" 
"What is it?!" I asked, excitedly.
"It's a tiny cow!  It's black and white, and soooo cuuuuute!"

She then proceeded to wrap the tiny, invisible cow into a carefully folded wipe, patting it to sleep.  This was repeated over and over for the next hour.  Daddy even came home just in time for the cow to wake up, get unwrapped, and presented to him.  I didn't catch a good glimpse of him, but it sounds like he was "soooo cuuuute"!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stuck like everyone else. Sort of.

 Plans never plod along smoothly.  We know this.  We have learned to ebb and flow... to work towards a general idea, but realize there will no doubt be curve balls and obstacles.  Sometimes, you even go backwards.  These are lessons that we have already learned through out marriage.  But, that doesn't mean that I don't still feel exhausted from it all.

We came up with the idea to move back to our hometown and build.  We had taken a dilapidated house and made it beautiful.  That should count for something, right?  Surely, we would benefit from all of our hard work... and it would help us achieve our next step.  We bought the land for our new home and farm.  But, instead of selling the old house, we bit on a rent to own situation.  Just a few months ago, Jeff and I talked about how much money we need to save in order to actually start building our home.  I hit the spreadsheets, I made a plan. 

After my budget plan was enacted, our tenants that were in our first house - the first one that we fixed up, lived in, and loved.. moved out.  They were great renters, and had stayed a long time.  I hated to see them go!  After they left, my saving plan when to heck.  That house needed work, of course, so we orchestrated some needed renovations.  And, we hemorrhaged money. Technically, we still are.  I think we'll be back on track, with renters paying rent, next month. That's the "plan", anyways.

And, even though we knew the rent-to-own contract on our last house had a chance of falling through... it still hit hard for me when it didn't.  It needed to sell so that I can move forward... so that this independent person who loves freedom and space can yet again own a home. And instead, we were paying three mortgages and living in someone else's house.  Sigh.

After a very brief attempt to sell our 1862 house again, we decided that we needed to be open to renting it, as well.  With the economy what it is, people just cannot get loans right now.  We made this decision and then got very lucky.  A friend, a good friend, a good friend with an awesome family full of awesome children that my boys played and bonded with and love, will be moving in to the house!  It is so liberating to be able to know that the house will be taken care of, and loved.  With that said, all of the decision I was making and conversations I was having... were from a distance.  It was a series of phone calls, numbers on a spreadsheet, Craigslist ads, blog posts, and emails.  Until Saturday.

On Saturday, I actually went back to the house, for the first time.  While Jeff worked on the porch, I mowed the grass... and cried.  This is what it felt like to mow your own grass.  I did this.  That big, beautiful garage?  We built that.  Those steps?  We built them.  The porch... The siding... The cabinets and the antique tiles and the details.... We made those decisions and put a whole lot of my heart into them.  I am not over that house.  It might be easier to handle not living there when I am moving forward.  But, as it stands, it's just someone that I never got over... and someone that I am protective of.  Renovating that house was our life.  OUR LIFE.  My trip on Saturday was full of uncontrollable tears... I miss our house... and that's just the way it is.

I started to feel a bit disillusioned.  Why did I care so much about where to put that door, or which knobs to put on the cabinets?  Why did I waste my mental energy on picking out the light switch covers that I liked?  Why did I bother... What was the point?  If it's not for me, and it's not helping me live somewhere that is for me, then what on Earth were we doing?

We bought our first house from a couple that we named Tweedle Dum and the Paint-hater.  They had horses, that destroyed the pasture... it was red clay.  There was a crummy old stable and a workshop that had seen better days.  The entire back yard was covered in, literally, tons of junk.  I mean, it was like a small scale junk yard.

The house needed some work, which we thought was a lot at the time.  I am a little jaded now that we did the Bethlehem house and are looking at building a timber frame home with lumber that we are milling ourselves.  But, for normal people, especially a young couple, it was a major effort.  Scraping the house and windows, painting, putting in a floor, digging a french drain by hand and anger, in the rain.  Putting up fence along 2+ acres.  Rearranging the stables and making the workshop and barn very nice... It was a different place, indeed, when we left.

With all of the manual construction labor that define our 13 years together comes sacrifice.  Saving money, taking small vacations, spending weekends and often weekday nights doing manual labor (or being alone with the kids, while Jeff did)... All of this was sacrifice that was supposed to have a pay off.  Right now, with the economy the way it is, that payoff it not guaranteed. 

Beyond the self-inflicted stress of buying needy homes, we spent 7 years struggling to create a family.  8 miscarriages, countless expensive failures, an adoption nightmare that no one should ever have to live through, a horrific lawsuit that consumed our every thought from the time we woke in the morning until after we fell asleep at night.  Very hard pregnancies that either left me and the babies hospitalized for almost 5 months total... or left me back in the hospital at 2 months postpartum, in the ICU, trying to figure out what was causing my body to go septic.  A set of preemie twins on oxygen and monitors.. that would actually go off for a REASON, all the time.  A baby who could not eat and breathe at the same time, causing him to be readmitted to the NICU months after coming home (unheard of).  A baby who almost died from a black widow bite... Another who took more ambulance rides than I can count, due to spazmatic throat closure.

I know that, in the big picture, we will look back at all that we have accomplished and it will make sense.  I know we will succeed, somehow, and live in our home on our 25 acres... with animals all around.  I am not so self-pitying that I think this is truly hopeless... I know that we are incredibly blessed. But, that doesn't mean this is easy.  We are both tired... and we have so far to go.  I feel that we have spent so much energy working and sacrificing to fix houses that other people will live in... or for houses that we are in that belong to someone else.  I am overwhelmed.  Do we have it in us to keep going?  Why on Earth do we do this stuff?  Are we stuck?

The good news is that, although things might be getting to me, or to Jeff, they are not getting to the kids.  They went with us to the house on Saturday.  They helped... and played with their friends Ethan, Cael, and Tucker... who will be moving into the house!  It didn't make them sad to play in their old "beaver dam".  They weren't phased by their old porch, or any of it.  Even when I couldn't control my tears, and they asked me why and I told them, they were still okay.  They don't miss the house because to them, they have a house.  They have a class with friends.  They are happy.  And, this means that we have been successful.  Kids don't care.  Thank God.

If we had not taken that rent-to-own situation, we would not have moved here when we did.  We wouldn't have been able to jump start our hybrid homeschool class, which is going so well.  It's like we moved for the schools... without moving for the school system.  The kids wouldn't be spending at least twice a week hanging out with their grandparents.  It is a better spot, lifestyle speaking.  Now, we need to find a way to make that next step... and have the energy left to do so.  This one will be our biggest project, and yet we start out weary.  But, I know that one day, when the economy recovers, we will sell that fabulous home and give our building possibilities the boost it needs.

Last night, Jeff gave me a big hug and told me that we've come a long way.  He said this as we stood, hugging, in the same bedroom that I slept in as a kid.  Have I come a long way?  I suppose in some strange way, I have.  I have learned a lot about being flexible, about not being in control, about not wasting energy trying to change things that cannot be changed.  I've learned that life truly, truly isn't fair... and I've learned that that's okay.  I also know that, even though I may feel beaten at the moment... I have no regrets.  It was the right path, it's just not fun right now.  And, I am well aware that, despite my whining, I have lots to be thankful for.  We are blessed with happy, healthy children.  We have a marriage that continues to work.  Our boys are getting an awesome education.  We are spending time with our parents.  We do have a roof over our heads.  And, things will most likely make sense in hindsight.

But, tonight, I am feeling the toll from all of the work we have put in... and I am going to bed to dream of the day when I can spend energy picking out a light fixture... and then stick around to get to use it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Plans, Plans.

I have no idea how many house plans the average married couple designs over the course of 12 years of marriage, but I am betting that Jeff and I fall on the high end of that range.  We started drawing out house plans on AutoCAD in about 2000.  I think the first one that we ever played around with was for living in an huge old silo.  From there, we have thought, scratched, stewed, measured, and drawn quite a number of houses.  Our last house, the Bethlehem house, was so unfinished when we bought it, that we were able to plot its transformation out, as well.  With my lack of spacial relations skills, and Jeff's lack of... well... patience with a lack of spacial relations skills, it's amazing we enjoy such a hobby.

I think we are getting close to designing the very last house we will ever do.  All of the sketches and lines and frame diagrams are getting a little old.  For the first time, I get the feeling that we are nearing the final draft.  My job is now to get us on a budget so that we can break ground in about a year.  So, I am going to need to muster up some hearing impaired brain cells, so they can block out the chaos around me and fire financial synapses in the right direction.  I don't know how, but I'll find the ability to make it work.

Jeff and Randy have managed to pull both of the ends of Randy's barn up off of the ground with their pulleys and ropes and tractor.  I am amazed... not that they succeeded, but that no one ended up in the hospital.

The neighbor to our property that we will build on has a tree service.  He has brought surplus trees over to Randy's for us to cut down and use!  Now, that's an awesome situation for someone crazy enough to mill their own lumber to be in.  I am guessing that this lumber will be used to build a solar kiln on the property.  I am interested to see just what that entails... and just how possible it will be for me to one day turn it into a greenhouse!