Wednesday, December 28, 2011


This year, I resolve to take more pictures. I have so many moments out of this year that I treasure and I need to be better at taking photos of those moments and cataloging them. 2012 is a year of so much change for this farm. This year, we transitioned from apartment dwellers to homeowners. This coming year is where we transition from homeowners to beekeepers.
Here are a few of my favorite moments in time.

:: Looking out the front window. The snow is starting to fall, although it didn't last long at all. This Christmas, although still crazy with five children (plus a bonus daughter's boyfriend) and visits with family, I can feel the peacefulness of the home where we are now.

:: A sharp contract from this time just 12 months ago. Although Christmas is always a very magical time for us ~ Mark and I got engaged and celebrated our vows with family at Christmastime ~ looking at these two pictures (the previous and the post) makes me realize how far we have come.

:: We celebrated Kait's last birthday in the apartment with yummy made-from-scratch chocolate souffle. I have a strange feeling that for Kait's 21 birthday, coming this April, that I will be handing off the souffle duties to a young man that makes my daughter smile.

:: I love knowing that soon we'll be dying Easter Eggs from our own chickens. While that isn't likely to happening in 2012, it most certainly will be happening in 2013. Farm fresh Easter Eggs...Cannot wait!
:: I do remember that feeling when we realized that our peach trees had actual baby peaches on them. Those champs were growing in buckets in Grandma's driveway, waiting to put their roots in the ground and they still provided us with a-maze-ing fruit...just a sampling, but more than we ever imagined this early.

:: Exploring one of our new haunts. Hueston Woods State Park isn't too far from where we live. It has beautiful hiking areas, a ("ghetto"/"cat litter") beach (but a beach none the less), a breathtaking lodge, fireworks for the thunder Tuesday (the Tuesday after the 4th of July), a full-campground and more.

:: We took a drive this year to an old flour mill - pretty sweet!

:: One of our favorite old haunts, Yellow Springs/Clifton Gorge area. Beautiful rock formations and waterscapes.

:: My girl. Geez I am so in love with my kids! I'm so thankful that my husband came with two bonus kids and that we were able to create these awesome kids together.

:: This year, we celebrated Gage's birthday on the farm with a huge open house for tons of family. We celebrated Cora's with a Halloween/Harvest themed party and an overnight with some of her very old friends (some since ALLL the way back in kindergarten - she's in second grade now ya' know) and some very new friends, that I am thankful that she made so easily at her new school. In fact, just today, after a couple of her friends had asked her to spend the night at their houses, back-to-back, she made the comment that she was "Popular"! She loves that fact that she was able to keep her old friends and has made so many new friends - so much so that it's "getting crowded in here" LOL.

:: We celebrated Cora's birthday with sushi too! Apparently we know how to finish off some amazing rolls at Sima.

:: Our dog, Blue, the best dog I've ever known in my entire life. She is incredibly sweet, but plays rough and tough with the kids, and tells us, with a bark, when something doesn't seem right outside. She's standing in the kitchen of our farm. Look at all that light and space...LOVE!

:: This is the dining room where we, quite easily, fit 20 people for a sit down Thanksgiving dinner. I've always wanted this for my home. I know that with five children, our dinner table will only continue to expand and I wanted to make sure that the home we purchased was capable of holding that ever expanding family.

:: I have the best husband in the world. He has given me five awesome kids, a wonderful home, is very hands on with raising our children...AND...he's crafty! That's right, he built that bookcase (which I love) and that table with the singer treadle base and old barn wood from my uncle (which I love). Not only do they fit perfectly in our home, but my husband's love and hard work went into each hammered nail and each brush stroke. I love him.

:: Speaking of hand grandfather made this bookcase for my grandmother. I have so many memories of taking each book off the shelves, cleaning of the dust, organizing the books back in alphabetical order, excited about the cleanliness of the shelves when I was done and being rewarded with a quarter (yes, an entire quarter...worth it completely).

:: So I collect salt and pepper shakers.

:: This is another one of my favorite spots in the house. We have a storage closet that was at one time a dumbwaiter. On the top shelf, my grandmother's fine china. I was never close the her. This isn't necessarily something that I regret, now that she has passed, but just something to note. I feel like using her dishes to make my family feel special during the holidays, strangely makes me come to terms or accept (I don't know if either of those are fitting) the woman she was.

:: We've added a new member to our family. Midnight, the lion headed bunny rabbit is very sweet and fits our family well. The kids like to watch him hop around his cage, but similar to our dear rat, Cookie, Midnight pays those cats no mind.

:: This is Josie. One of the two alpacas that we have coming to our farm in January. The other is Cora's BFF, Blossom. Mark and I gave these two girls to our children for Christmas this year. There is a strong chance that they are pregnant. We never had any intention of having alpacas on the farm, but through an amazing twist of fate, 2-4 alpacas will be the first livestock to come here. (We just love Spruce Hill Fiber Farm for helping us with this secret)

:: At the top of this photo - alpaca fiber. At the bottom, right - CVM Romeldale Fiber (this is the sheep breed that we will be adding, after they are born and weaned). At the bottom, left - Angora Goat Fiber (this is one of the goat breeds that we will be adding to the farm as well). **Fiber is from Spruce Hill and the goats will be coming from Spruce Hill - the sheep are coming from Marushka Farms.

:: Our cleaned fiber, draining and drying.

:: Hoping to create some wonderful yarn from these tools. This year, I learned to spin. Although I have my challenges still, I'm excited to spin yarn and create hats, mittens, socks and more for my children and family. I also love the our kids are just as excited to learn to spin as I am.

:: Our sweet, patient trees are rooted now. For the most part, they are in the ground. We are hoping that they will survive the winter (and the deer) and give us some more fruit next fall. For Christmas, our oldest girls gave us (among other things) gift cards to Marvin's Organic Gardens and we are hoping to use those to replace anything that didn't make it and to buy some new items (berry bushes? more fruit trees?)...

:: Enjoying push up pops with Gage, Drake, Cora and Blue.

:: The only thing missing is the pitch fork!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What a difference a year makes...

After reading my husband's blog, Marxwell's House, it reminded me to look over the last few posts of 2010 and the first few of 2011. Seriously, what a difference a year makes. A year ago, we were adjusting to having seven people living together in a two bedroom apartment, with mostly terrible neighbors in a not-so-great neighborhood. We were dreaming of our forever home, with some land for our livestock, gardens and honey bees. we are...kinda.
After so much stress and time and paperwork and happy thoughts and fearful thoughts...I'm sitting here in our Blue House on the Hill, in the living room, with my children snuggling by the Christmas tree, watching TV...thinking about finishing touches we need to do over the next couple of days for Christmas (almost ready).
We bought the home, on 1.3 acres (not a ton of land, but enough) and we are tremendously excited about what this spring means for us. The addition of our barn and pasture, our sheep, dairy goats and angora goats, installation of our hives, creating and planting our garden space and more.
We've already begun our compost pile and are recycling. We found the amazing deal of 1100+ free canning jars, which should set us up for putting up foods. We've been working with breeders to locate the best animals for our needs. We've created our list of chicken breeds and just need to place the order when we know when the coup will be ready for them. The wheels are in motion, just hoping that the time schedule and finances catch up to the plans :-)
I hope all of you are doing well and I want to wish everyone that is reading a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Safe New Year.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I wish I took more photographs. Each year, I promise myself that "this year, I will take more pictures"...But many times I'm so in the moment that the camera never gets picked up off the table and photographs taken. There is so much going on around here, so much change...I wish I was able to document everything, but typical we'll complete a task and then ask - did anyone take any pictures? No? Hmmmm...
For example, we hosted Thanksgiving this year. We had 16 people total over to the house and were able to easily seat every in our dining room. We put three tables together, covered in deep red cloths, everyone using my grandmothers fine china, lit by dim overhead light supporting the three oil lamps, everyone laughing and giving thanks for their blessings. I'm proud of our successful dinner, we prepared the turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, coleslaw, squash, stuffed dates, apple pie, pumpkin pies, key lime pie, pumpkin roll, homemade yeast rolls...everything turned out well...except the one casualty of green bean casserole (ok, so I forgot that I switched the oven to broil...small flames..everything is fine). I knew that there were a few cameras floating around that day and after the guest had left and some of the table cleaned off and I said "Did anyone take any pictures? No? Hmmmm"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving Thanks

I've seen a movement on Facebook where people are choosing something to give a daily "thanks" for in the month of November. I thought about joining in, but the truth is, I am so thankful for everything that I have been blessed with. I have an amazing spouse/partner/best friend that I'm able to laugh with/yell with through this crazy life. I have incredible children that amaze and frustrate me every day. I'm thankful for Tiffany, she struggles her way through life, trying to find her place in her grown up world. She is strong minded and I'm so proud of her going back to school and working on her degree. I'm thankful for Kait, she is working hard too. She, like Tiff, is working two jobs and has found herself a partner. We all have taken a liking to her boyfriend. Even our little ones already consider David family. I'm thankful David makes Kait happy and I hope to see that continue for a long time. I'm thankful for Gage, he's really working in school to get good grades and trying to keep an open mind about his new school. I'm hopeful that he will find a couple of good friends soon. I'm thankful for Drake, what an awesome spirit he is. He is funny and weird and I love every speck of him. I'm thankful that although he is very unique, he is strong enough to know that is ok and all those differences are why he's so cool. I'm thankful for my Corabell. She is intelligent, beautiful, hilarious and sweet.
I'm thankful that I am sitting in my beautiful 130 year old farmhouse that we worked so hard to get. I'm thankful that my family's bellies are full and that we are sitting in our warm living room together after a long weekend of getting ready to host Thanksgiving.
I'm thankful every day and I make everyone around me aware of how thankful and am for them and everything I have.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

All Hallows Eve and more...

Meant to post this a while ago...
Tomorrow is the big day around here. Halloween, perhaps more importantly, Beggar's Night :-). My kids are all very excited about tomorrow. Gage is going to be a "Team Rocket Grunt", which is a member of the Pokemon "Bad Guys" Crew, Drake is going to be Hareta, a Pokemon Trainer (so they are on opposite teams!) and Miss Cora is going to be a Cheetah. We have all the supplies, I just need to finish making a few of the costumes "extras". Today, we carve pumpkins...I'm excited about this! The carved pumpkins will look amazing on our porch.
Yesterday was a busy day for our family, as are most days. We went into Dayton (about an hour from here) to donate blood. Since we were in the area, we decided to go to where our oldest daughter works to grab a bite to eat and visit with one of my friends from high school (someone I haven't seen in...Ahem...20 years). Afterward we let the kids go to spend a little of their hard earned cash/birthday money. Cora got her ears pierced (she got them done a couple years ago, but had some issues with them), now they are re-pierced...I'm hoping that she'll be able to get them to heal up - she is so excited about them. We also went to the book store and looked through the books, always a favorite for our family. The other night in Tractor Supply, Cora fell in love with a bunny. We encouraged her to wait, although we knew that the addition of a bunny to our family was inevitable. Yesterday, we found the CUTEST black, dwarf, lion-head rabbit. Midnight is now a proud member of Fresh Eggs Farm.
The other day, Mark and I researched more into our barn/pasture space. Since the property doesn't have this set up, we are pretty much have a blank slate for our projects. We just need to be mindful of everything we need to set up and how each project best suites the needs of our family and how to best accommodate the garden/animals/bees/trees etc. that we want on the property. When building our fence, we originally thought we'd have lots of angles and corners to go around gardens and trees and still allow the animals lots of space. Then we realized the cost of each corner (because of the posts and corner braces) we decided to try to make the pasture as square as possible and move some of the gardens around, the manual labor of moving things around is cheaper than buying more posts to put in. I am researching which plants we can leave in and which plants we are going to HAVE to transplant, since they might be toxic to the goats/sheep. I've decided to create work plans and supply lists for our projects. Then, we'll know just how much of everything we'll need and the approximate costs - that way, when we have extra money, we can just grab a little at a time. I think we need to get our barn built and pasture ready for our animals and then the rest will fall into place.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fiber, Fiber, Fiber

Last weekend was a biggie. I had an event on Saturday for work - it was very successful and I'm very happy with it. Then, we drove 3 hours to a farm in NW Ohio, near Edon. The owners of Spruce Hill Fiber Farm, Will and Lisa, invited us to come, visit their animals and learn about the differences between the different fibers and help us decide what animals we'd like to have on our little farm. We were even able to help do farm chores with them. Cora help shovel the horse poo. The boys and Mark helped put out feed. I talked and learned. They have about 60-70 angora goats, 5 sheep (shetland and CVM) and a bunch of alpacas. It was...incredible. We've decided that we need goats (dairy and fiber), sheep...I'd like to have an alpaca, I think. But I know Mark has no desire to have one at this point.
For now, we are trying to figure out what order to put in our farm projects. I think the barn for the animals, in combination with the coop for the chickens, along with the fencing to keep everyone safe are in the lead for our next BIG dollar/time project.
For now, we have enough black walnut shucking/drying/cracking to keep us busy for a bit. crochet..or to just leave it alone?

So here is the dilemma...I created a sweater for Cora that was a mix of knit and crochet. It is purple and blue and very pretty. So pretty that Mark's 96 year old grandmother loves it and can't stop talking about it. She is telling her friends about it. She keeps mentioning it. So where's the dilemma...right? Well, I've been debating attempting to make a pretty blue sweater for Mark's grandmother for Christmas...have I mentioned that Mark's grandmother can be a little...judgemental, better yet...very vocal about her judgementalness? What if I pick out the wrong pattern, the wrong color, if it's a touch too small or a touch too large, or too heavy or too light? I'm not sure what I'll do.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

21 down

(*Not my image)
283 WAS my highest weight. Two hundred and eighty three pounds. You gotta' love PCOS, the ovarian syndrome that I have that causes weight gain, more hair on your chin/face, less hair on your head, issues with my monthly cycle, troubles having babies and the list goes on. Pretty exciting stuff huh? Well, I've decided to take control of this disease and work on my own insecurities. I know that beauty comes from within blah blah blah :-) But when I met my handsome husband 16 years ago, I was a sexy 120-125 I'm more than double that. He loves me big or little, but I need to make sure that I still love me. Plus with five children and this beautiful farm...I need to make sure that I'm around to enjoy all of these gifts.
So...that image above!? See the large blob of fat on the bottom shelf? That's 20 pounds of fat...As of this morning...I have lost 21 pounds. I've lost just a touch over that blob. I feel really good about that. I still have another 120 pounds to lose (at least)'s not going to be easy, but I feel confident that I can do it. So how am I doing it this time? I'm tracking every bite of food that I put in my mouth. I have a great excel spreadsheet - it's definitely time consuming - but worth it. I eat similar foods every day, so once I list a food and have all the nutrition facts then really it is just copying and pasting the information. I try to stay within the recommended daily allowances for things like calories, saturated fat, iron, fiber, protein etc. I also found an excel equation to determine your Weight Watcher points. I'm not doing WW, but I think that it is just another way to make sure that you are on track. Here's the equation for anyone needing it:  =(Calories/50)+(Total Fat/12)-(Fiber/5). I've also been working out when I have time, but that is definitely something that needs to be stepped up. I'm worried about plateaus though. So I'm stepping into this program. First, get my food down, then have blood work done to see how my levels are working for (or against) me and then get the exercise program going. The food seems to be pretty well shaped, although I have my times, sometimes a couple days in a row where I'm not sticking to the diet...but I'm ok as long as I jump back on the wagon before too much damage is done. When I went to the doctor, I found out that I'm anemic - so I've been taking iron supplements. The doctor also put me on Metformin, a drug made for diabetics, and although I'm not a diabetic (yet...and hopefully will not ever be one) - because PCOS is associated with insulin resistance the Metformin helps my body understand how to process the insulin it should help with weight loss. I want to make sure that this weight never comes's so hard to get the weight off. I'm taking it slow and being smart about it, although at times it is very frustrating that I'm not losing Biggest Loser kind of weight. But 21 pounds in just shy of 3 months isn't too shabby.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Living In Extremes and Finding the Balance

Mark and I are the least extreme people that you will ever meet. We know what we feel is right for ourselves, each other, our children, our family as a whole, our animals and such; however, we don't ever want to designate what is right for others. We see such extreme behaviors as, well...extreme. That being said, we seem to live in a world of extremes. We have this huge, most significant part of our lives which is our family and creating the farm living space. In our hearts, we are on the edge of becoming sustainable farmers, providing for our family in a natural way. We are hard working, strong and treading as lightly as possible. There is another part of our lives that is my career. I work in Energy Efficiency and, at times, need to travel from Ohio to Portland for team building (which is always a wonderful experience to be around my co-workers, but difficult to be away from life here (Mark, children, farm etc.). I love my job though...and frankly, it pays the bills and keeps us insured. We have another part of our lives that calls us to far away this year, we have traveled to Philadelphia (twice), Pittsburgh (two or three times), NYC/Brooklyn (twice), Portland (once), New Jersey (twice). At times we get to play dress up, drink cocktails and snack on hor d'oeuvres and other times we are elbow deep in mud. It's hard to find the balance...knowing where our hearts are...but knowing that we need to nurture these other, very significant elements of our lives. Friendships, careers, extended family that all need and deserve a portion of our hearts. Here's a glimpse into our extremes...
Mark and I at Hueston Woods, a State Park just a few miles from our home. Hiking with the kids. Photo taken by Ms. Cora (*note the height of the photographer).
Mark and I at my friend's wedding, in Brooklyn. I had the amazing honor of being the officiant of the wedding. I am so excited to be a part of her memories, forever. She will be an amazing wife. 

The kids at Hueston Woods. It's truly beautiful land.

The Bride and me! Although it is hard to tell, the new bride is also about to be a new mama! I can't wait to witness her in this new role. She is a wonderful soul and, I'm sure, will raise her son to be a kind, open-minded, open-hearted gentleman.
Snuggle Time with Belly and me!

Brooklyn Bridge, breathtaking during the day and even more so at night. My friend's wedding was at a beautiful venue, just below the Brooklyn Bridge, on the Brooklyn side. The wedding was outside and we had the Manhattan Skyline as our backdrop!

The kids, our dog, Blue and me enjoying a round of push up Popsicles, after a hard day of planting trees.

Who needs a pick up truck when you have a mini-van??!! We've hauled so much for our farm between a mini-van, a Yaris and an old Accord. Our latest haul, and possibly our most money saving haul? We got over 1100 Ball canning jars for FREE off Craigslist. They need just a little clean up and will be perfectly for next year's canning extravaganza!

What good mother doesn't let her son climb a wobbly ladder, with a saw to saw off the lower branches of our pine trees? Oh wait! Get down Drake!!!

TIMBER!!! We have downed 8 pine trees (one that was ginormous!) on our property. Seven of them were dead/dying, one just took up SO much space and made our front lawn a little claustrophobic. A chop, chop here and a buzz, buzz there and down they all came. Of course we started with the largest tree and I must admit there was a moment of panic when the tree started to fall and I had the "what if it falls the wrong way" thought. Not to worry though, they all fell exactly where they were supposed to and no one has gotten hurt.

It helps to have friends in high places. Our friend Matt used to work for a landscaping company...and anyone that knows Matt, loves Matt. He's a good guy with a great heart and he offered to borrow one of the awesome tools that the landscaping company has and bring it to our property. This Dingo, with the Auger attachment, dug 23 HUGE holes in our land in no time at all. All I had to do is go around and point and Matt was able to plunk the auger in the hole and dig perfectly sized holes - something that would take Mark and I FOR-EVER to do by hand. Not to mention it was awesome to witness the raw power of that amazing tool. It has a bucket attachment and lifted a few of our pine trees and tossed them onto the brush stack in the back of the property like they were feathers.

I also found it fascinating how the auger would pull the dirt out of the hole and toss it around the outside. You have no idea how easy this tool (and it's awesome driver) made our lives.

It may not look like much, but that tree is going to feed my children some awesome Apricots, some day. Drake, and the rest of the kids, helped out so much on tree planting day.

Mmmm....Pear! Drake and Daddy did a great job getting this one in the ground and covered up.

Does it count as "child labor" if they have a great time and look so freakin' cute doing it? Not to toot my own horn, but that is my favorite skirt of Cora's - Dia de Los Muertos - Sugar Skulls cover the skirt and it twirls in just the right way. Cora is the perfect mix of punk rock girl, tomboy and cheerleader.

Gage and Drake helping Daddy fill holes and water our trees.

Special thanks to the kids and Blue who stuck it out to at least monitor our progress even after they got tired and sick of planting trees (who can blame them, 23 trees in one day is a LOT for anyone's attention span.

Good and watered! We have nearly all of our trees/plants in the ground at this point. Now we need to sit back and take stock of what we need and where we have space. 

Our first, of hopefully many, FRESH as can be Peaches. Isn't it perfect?

Other things happening in our world?
The kids at the pool at my parents' camp. They store their RV at a campground that they have grown to love. A couple of times we took time out to go and visit them and beat the heat with a dip in the pool.

One of our favorite spots, Glen Helen area of Yellow Springs/Clifton Gorge.

Nice cool water after a long hike...perfect.

All good things must come to an end. This summer was a doozy, but the kids have been back to school for a couple of weeks now. With the first official day of Fall coming and going, the leaves changing colors and falling over our freshly cut grass, a crispness in the air and hoodies always close by we look forward to see what this new season brings to us. We are blessed to have this warm home and dream about all the projects that await us for next Spring.

 Wanted to mention that I am so lucky to live this life with my best friend. I was only 21 when we met and I find it incredible that we still love to hang out with each other. I still have the BIGGEST crush on my husband...Look at him...Who wouldn't????

I love all the new creatures that we get to see out here. This beautiful butterfly fluttered right onto Drake's fingers.

We had a ton of the Yellow and Black butterflies throughout our property this year...I hope that continues. 

I don't know what that little guy is...but he's cute.

I'll leave you with this...THIS is the biggest spider I've ever seen in my life. She is a mama Wolf Spider. How do I know that she's a mama? See those dots all over her backside? Those...those are babies. We counted around 100! She's outside, in our shed/barn, she's not aggressive by nature and will only bite in a defensive mode. We decided to let her live...and someone recently pointed out..."so that means you have 101 of these on your property" - perhaps I should have squashed her with my shoe (I was just afraid she'd fight back!). Really though, I think she is cool. I'm proud that we can teach our children about these creatures that we wouldn't normally be able to expose them to.

In the end, I know that we will continue to work on finding that balance in our life. We do really well with's just another challenge that we face. This is the life we chose, the path that was created for us - it's an amazing journey and I'm so glad all of you are along for the ride.