First Day of School, But First….

Today was it. The first day of the 12th year of homeschool. Where in tarnation did all of the years GO???

But before school, there was the end of summer vacation – and canning.

We had a wonderful time in Michigan: no salt, no sharks, no problems. Sigh.  Before we left Kristen & Kurt cleaned my van. The interior looked just as bad as the exterior (translate: I forgot to take before pictures)


When I went to the car wash, the water jets pushed my new driver magnet right off the van. I walked behind the van at the cheese store and about freaked out. Kristen was planning to drive to Michigan and we needed the magnet. I went back to the car wash and looked everywhere – of course there was a car in the bay that I had used so I’m standing on my head trying to see in while they got their car washed. I can only imagine what they were thinking! I couldn’t see it anywhere, so I called the phone number and a really nice man told me to wait until the other car left and I would find it on the floor – and sure enough there it was, getting the magnet side washed, too. Huge sigh of relief.

When the kids were finished, the interior looked amazing!


They pulled it into the garage where I couldn’t get really good pictures, but I assure you, my van was a night and day transformation!

While we were chilling at Grandma and Grandpa’s the kids did a lot of reading of “Calvin and Hobbes” books. It keeps them occupied and they have a great time laughing at our family favorite comic strip. Even Present got in on the fun.

Of course, Present also got her nose into Kristen’s cereal bowl and fresh blueberries – I’m not sure where the picture is. We both got yelled at for that one ūüėÄ

Once we were back home, we had to deal with the garden. There are no pictures of the bounty because the task before us was extremely daunting. 88 tomatoes on the first picking. For 3 days straight (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) Kristen and I chopped, diced, peeled, sliced, stirred and canned. She brought up all of the frozen broth from the freezers so that we could pressure can that and get it out of the freezer to make room for the beef next month. We put up tomato paste, sauce, and diced tomatoes; more pickle relish, peaches and peach jam. Plus lamb and chicken broth. AND Kristen thawed and ground about 12 lbs. of lamb to make sausage. The corn we blanched and froze, but it was past its prime and will probably end up in chicken feed over the winter. I came home to 5 club sized zucchini in the garden and promptly pulled the plants. I also pulled the cucumbers because we have 6 on the counter from before vacation and an overflowing 1/2 bushel since we came home. NO ONE wants that much pickle relish for Christmas!  We still have salsa on the list and that will use some cukes as well.

By the end of the canning session it was obvious that our leaking kitchen faucet had to go; okay, it was obvious before we left on vacation, but Hubby got a real dose of it while we were gone and that was enough! So,late on Saturday, Kristen and I decided the time had come and we would go get the new faucet. Before that could happen, while she was trying to heat water to put in the diced tomatoes – the microwave died! 5 minutes on high, for tap water temperature. Not good. So, we were looking for a microwave as well. I found one I liked at Home Depot.

Off to the store, to find out that they don’t stock their microwaves at Home Depot. They didn’t have the one I found on line, but Kristen found one she liked better. We went to order that. Guess what, that will be $15 to remove the old one and $60 to have the new one delivered-to the store! Are you kidding me? Sorry, fella, that’s too much added on to the price. Lowe’s had absolutely nothing, so I checked Menard’s on my handy dandy smart phone. Well, soil¬†my britches and call me a Gronkel’s auntie, there was my Maytag microwave in stock! Oh, wait, in stock with a stainless steel handle. I just bought a bronze finish faucet for the kitchen, don’t really want stainless steel right there. Ah, here’s the all black option – two weeks to get it in. But, hold the presses! -ships to store for FREE!!! Oh, how I love that word!! ¬†FREE ¬†FREE FREE!! ¬†Order that puppy up and we’ll live with out a microwave for 2 weeks. It

Sunday rolls around and we’re at Menard’s to get a piece of steel that Joel needs for the trailer. I showed him the new microwave with the nice metal handle – no plastic! – he was impressed. ¬†Back home we came to nap and relax and then Kristen decided that she could install that faucet by herself. You Go Girl!!


Daddy was blown away when he got up from his nap. And you know what the hardest part of the whole process was? Figuring out how to turn the dump thing on!!! We rolled the lever back and forth and back and forth and checked all of the connections twice. No water. Kristen had pulled the hose out and was looking into it when she bumped the handle away from the faucet and got sprayed in the face!! Apparently, it turns on by pushing the lever away from the faucet and then adjust for hot and cold by rolling front or back. I’m telling you, folks, I’m not going gray, I’m going blonde!

Which brings us to today. The first day of school.


I can’t tell you how precious these pictures are and how much my kids have grown up every year. To see all of the pictures together on Karra’s board for graduation, was something else.

We had a couple of firsts on this first day of school – Kristen threw up, never had that happen before. I recommended that she NOT take her vitamins on an empty stomach in the future. We started at 8 (another first) and both kids were done at 12:00. ALL done, not just sort of done. And I sat in the school room and worked on stuff right along with them. Amazing.

One of the things we noticed with the leaky kitchen faucet and all of the canning was a funny smell in the laundry room and kitchen. We thought it was under the sink, or something from the canning. Turns out it’s the washing machine. THAT is all I need right now. But, Kristen and I did look at them at Home Depot and decided I’d like a stacking set, to maximize room in my laundry. That will be a post for another day and another time (I have a baby blanket to make today!)

And That’s What’s Happening on the Hobby Farm.

Photo Montage

Life has continued at a breakneck pace here at the Happy Palace. I’ll update with photos which include a new winner from the Queen of DIY as well as DIMS from me; the garden and the kittens!

First, the DIY Queen.

We gave a baby shower for two couples that were in our old Life Group. It was great. Such a wonderful peace in our house afterwards. I miss Life Group. So, the next day one of the couples asked Kristen if she would make their crib and changing table. Oh.My.Gosh! What an honor. What a challenge. One week later, the DIYQ had the crib done.


We delivered it the next Sunday (6/26) Here’s Kristen with the eager Mom-to-Be. The crib fits their baseball nursery to a T. They treated us to lunch ( forgot to load the picture). On Tuesday I picked up Kristen from the barn, she opened her phone to a Facebook update and Baby Troy had been born! Phew! Crib just in time. The changing table is still under construction. It will be the prototype of all future changing table/dressers, and our dear friends will have it forever. We can’t wait to visit them this Sunday and see that new baby!

I’ve been working on learning to make a box lining. I failed miserable making a lining for a crate that Kristen made for her friend (who did all of the sanding on my island!) ¬†I had success making interior liners for two boxes. The first box started this way – yes, we’ve bought our share of store beef hamburger patties; I’m ashamed.


But the box ended up looking like this:


I’m a sucker for old-fashioned floral prints and have quite a stash of them just waiting for me to use them. Maybe someday I’ll make a quilt with lots of old-fashioned floral squares.

My second box started out like this:


Yep, good ole Milk-Bones. I’ve been promising the dogs to make homemade peanut butter treats, but they are suffering for my lack of time like everything else! This box became this:


I’m really happy with the way it turned out. It holds all of my 8×11 cardstock and my shape cutter. I’m thrilled.

I used this tutorial for the outside of the boxes:  here

And this tutorial for the inside liner:  here

I looked at a LOT of tutorials and I messed up plenty of times. I have LOTS of boxes in my stash, so I’ll be using these tutorials until I have them memorized. Measure once, twice, thrice, quatros; then, MAYBE make the cut.

On a more successful note, my garden is looking great this year. The straw has made an amazing difference in the weed level. It’s so nice to look out and seed the garden growing instead of three years worth of weed seeds sprouting.


And the last little update is our little kittens!


The best I can do: Back two faces are Zoe and Boston; Middle three are Tonya, Matt’s Cat (going to a friend of Kristen’s), Tammy Rose (who may be a Tommy); front kitty is Pepper Pott. They are the most adorable little fuzz balls. Tammy/Tommy talks and talks. You can hear it meowing upstairs and you’d swear something was trying to eat it. The minute the kitten is in your hands, it’s as quiet as can be. If money were no object, I’d keep all 6 of them. But it is. And I’m not.

On top of all of these wonderful things, it’s Camp Meeting at church this weekend and the girls are both volunteering. Joel’s spending time with his Mom, brother and cousin, and Kurt and I are hanging out together. I’m going to try to start painting my kitchen island – and maybe I’ll make another covered box, too. Daytona Saturday Night under the Lights!

And That’s What’s Happening on the Hobby Farm.




The Week was a Whirlwind!

I’m sorry I’ve been gone. ¬†I had a wonderful, lazy birthday last week. ¬†I wore my new red birthday jammies to bed and got up on Friday and let the dogs out. ¬†Then I let the dogs in. ¬†Then I wished I hadn’t. ¬†Guess who messed with a guess what ¬†– FOR THE 3RD TIME! ¬†This time was the charm for the skunk. ¬†Lexi took a direct hit. ¬†Gagging and foaming at the mouth right onto my brand new red birthday jammies!! ¬†Oh my Lord, the smell!!!!! ¬†And Joel had come home on my birthday to spend the weekend and he got to enjoy a cold, skunky house. ¬†At least he was so glad to be home that he didn’t mind too much. ¬†The last of the smell lingers in the laundry room and I am only so thankful that the sewing room was moved OUT of there.

Joel was very impressed with the shelves that Kristen and I put up and when he did a Lowe’s run on Saturday to get lumber for the base of the new pond dock, we picked up the lattice for the back of the shelves in the sewing room. ¬†We will definitely need to work on the lighting down there; even with 3 lamps it’s a little dim.

Friday night Karra and I went work-clothes shopping with our friend, Penny. ¬†We overwhelmed the new career girl! ¬†We both would say, “just buy it to get the great price now and you can always return it.” ¬†She only had so much money and it flustered her not to know how much she was spending. ¬†I’ll be returning some things for her and I told her whatever is over her budget we will pick up the tab for her. ¬†We had a good time other than that and Karra was satisfied with her purchases. ¬†She looked so professional as she headed off on her first day of work.

Monday I took Luke for a walk at the park and I could still walk yesterday!! ¬†He didn’t tire as easy, but he insisted on smelling every stick he peed on the week before. ¬†He did excellent with other dogs and bike riders. ¬†The only dog he growled at looked just like him! ¬†Silly puppy. ¬†We passed a couple when we were almost back to the parking lot and he just laid down in the grass like, I’m so beat. ¬†I wish like crazy I could take him today, but I’m too busy. ¬†Yesterday Kurt got his lower braces on and the rams went to the butcher. ¬†We loaded up the old van and drove away. ¬†I was kind of heavy hearted all day and tried really hard not to think of sweet Toulouse having to go there. ¬†What’s done is done and it’s the reason that we kept them. ¬†And it appears that Moe managed to nail Honeysuckle ahead of their group meet-up. ¬†She looks ready to explode! ¬†We’re thinking another week at the most. ¬†Men – they always find a way, don’t they?

Also on Monday I fell for an online scam. ¬†I can’t believe I was so stupid!! ¬† An alarm started going off on my laptop and completely freaked me out. ¬†I called the number that came up in the warning box – STUPID!!! ¬†Vaguely, in the back of my mind, I thought, is this really Microsoft? ¬†The guy was so nice and gave me his name and technician number and the name of the company and I STUPIDLY let him run a remote diagnostic on my laptop and make the alarm go off. ¬†When he said I had a firewall breech and he could fix it remotely for $200, I said, “you know, I have a friend that’s a computer guru (Penny’s friend really) and I’ll have him take a look and see what he thinks.” ¬†And the guy was so nice and said I shouldn’t use my laptop until I got it cleaned up and de-bugged. ¬†AND THE WHOLE THING WAS A SCAM!! ¬†At least I had the presence of mind NOT to give up a credit card number. ¬†It’s really creepy how people can just jump into your laptop like that. ¬†Penny’s friend has my baby (laptop baby) all better and she didn’t think he’d found any viruses on it which makes me so grateful – still feeling extremely stupid, but grateful. ¬†And there’s a nice, yummy cherry pie cooling on the counter for him ūüėÄ

As I stood at the kitchen sink, pitting cherries and making pie crust I couldn’t help but think how nice it will be to look out the window and see the garden going again. ¬†We’re going to put in the grape vines this year and I’m hoping to plant raspberry and blackberry vines as well. ¬†This 50 degree weather in February has got my gardening juices going!! ¬†We had thunder and lightening last night!! ¬†And we could see a few flurries tomorrow. ¬†What a crazy winter. ¬†But at least I didn’t have to wash my van – just parked it outside last night. ¬†I’m so brilliant ¬†NOT!!!

And That’s What’s Happening on the Hobby Farm

The End of an Era

I sat at the school table last fall and told the kids that this was the last 1st day of school I would ever have with 3 students. ¬†And I never gave that comment another thought. ¬†Until yesterday. ¬†Karra called everyone to the table to expound upon the end of her school career. ¬†It was my first “last” last day of school. ¬†She’s done (except for two subjects finishing over the summer). ¬†She’s not an official graduate until June 6, but she’s now an ex-Senior. ¬†I hope in the next two weeks I can round up all of our “1st Day of Homeschool” pictures that we take every year. ¬†She’ll hate it, but I’ll put them out at her graduation ūüėÄ ¬†After the school day we went to Cold Stone for big bowls of creative yumminess! ¬†What a perfect finish to the day.

I still have a lot of cleaning in the house and we have a lot of yard work to do and I need to make decorations – and my BFF offered the things left over from Karra’s BFF’s graduation party; oh, joy! ¬†The next two weeks will be REALLY busy and I’m going to put the hutch together and seal everything except the back walls so that Kristen can paint the flowers on later. ¬†Right now it needs to get out of my garage!! ¬†And those bumble bee stools need to get painted – along with my front door, exterior trim on 3 doors and my downstairs bathroom. ¬†In two weeks?? ¬†QUIT LAUGHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yesterday we tried out the new pressure canner and we are ready to rock n roll at canning season!!

We put fresh laid eggs under one of our broody hens today and are hoping to have some mama-hatched chicks next month!

And today. . . . Kristen and I got started on the stalls. I took 3 wheelbarrows from the cow stall to the chicken run and then Hubby pulled the truck into Libby’s stall and we loaded the truck. We had an adventure figuring out how to get from the barn in pasture one to the hole we wanted to fill in pasture two. There is windbreak planted through the pastures that was planted long before we decided we wanted to have farm animals and pastures. The cows have enjoyed killing/stripping/destroying about half of the screening willows. Hubby had to take out 3 small dead trees to make a path in pasture two and another dead tree in pasture three. We had to drive out of pasture one by the workshop – no first we had to pull out of the barn and miss the maple tree, but turn sharp in time to miss the screen of willows and then out of the pasture – up the driveway, swing wide to the right and turn left into pasture three ( he should be glad that I insisted on that gate!) and then weave through the maple and poplar trees going toward the road to turn the truck and come back through the trees and the opening Hubby made to get between the trees and the fence line. Dead branches banging the truck, we got through the gate into pasture two, wove through the open section then squeezed through the new opening between live and dead screening willows. Pulled through that tight spot to another opening and then backed up to the hole. After we unloaded the mess, we had to reverse the course in order to get back out of pasture three and return to the barn. We took two truck loads out of the barn and had to quit because we were exhausted. The stalls are NOT done. Those of you with a tractor or BobCat are the most blessed farmers out there.

Of course, now I’m adding to lop those dead branches off the trees and get all of the tree branches out of the pastures (and the orchard) before the graduation party. ¬†The new garden posts are in and cemented in place and we’ve decided to move the blueberries (again) into the garden area. ¬†I may only get one more garden bed out of the expansion, but we’ll have grapes, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries SAFE inside the garden.

And That’s What’s Happening on the Hobby Farm!


I CAN Do It All!

As I was scurrying through life yesterday doing laundry, making bread, cutting a pile of old t-shirts into rags (they had cluttered my bedroom and then my laundry room long enough!), and thinking about the school I needed to do with Kurt and things I needed to check for Kristen, and the 1st quarter grades I needed to get together, I realized that I had bought a lie.

The lie that “you can have it all” really is a lie. ¬†And honestly, if we had it all, would we even want it all? ¬†You can’t have it. ¬†Choices have to be made. ¬†Paths diverge in life and you have to take one or the other. ¬†Getting lost in the wilderness between paths only leads to confusion and guilt. ¬†You’re not really sure which path you belong on (or which one is more important) and running between the two leads to neither path being as fulfilling as it could and should have been. ¬†I made my choice of which path to follow and I’ve never regretted it. ¬†I’m doing what I wanted to do.

The opposite of “you can have it all” is the lie that “you can’t DO it all.” ¬†Hmmm. ¬†I’ve listened to that one. ¬†That one has led me down the slow path to depression. ¬†I felt so overwhelmed by everything I couldn’t do. ¬†“You can’t homeschool your kids AND keep your house clean AND cook for your family, too.” ¬†“Something has to give.” ¬†“You have to take time for yourself and just let things go.” ¬†“You can’t garden and raise animals and can and bake . . . . .” ¬†And the list of “you can’ts” goes on and on.

And as the lie built inside of me, it started coming out of my mouth!

“I’m too tired. ¬†I’ll do it later, tomorrow, never.”

“I just don’t have the energy.”

“I’m so tired of this. ¬†I just want to be their Mom.”

“I can do school or I can be Mom . . . I can’t do both.”

Wait a minute! ¬†Who says I can’t? ¬†I’ve been so caught up believing the lie that “I can’t” that I quit even TRYING to do SOMETHING! ¬†I gave in to lazy and undisciplined under the guise of “I can’t do everything.”

But I chose this life. ¬†I desired this life. ¬†I asked for this life. ¬†Granted, I jumped into parenthood, homeschooling and hobby farming completely unprepared for reality, but it’s still what I want to do. ¬†By buying the lie, I totally ignored the Source¬† of my strength.

“I can do all things through Christ who give me¬†strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

“He who began a good work in you will complete it until the Day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6)

“My God shall supply¬†all your¬†needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)

HE called me to be a Mom.

HE called me to teach my children at home.

HE placed in my selfish heart the desire for the farm and the animals and a garden and orchard.

HE gave me the desire to feed my family well.

And if HE brought me to it, HE will see me through it.  HE will sustain me in my infirmity (tiredness, weakness and lack of energy).

My Source, my Strength, my Energy, my Life. ¬†And He’s not a cosmic force watching from afar. ¬†HE LOVES ME! ¬†He’s right here beside me folding clothes, washing dishes, baking bread, readings books, sweeping floors and cleaning stalls! ¬†I’m free in Him to be me and I can DO IT ALL because HE says I can. ¬†“Whatsoever you do shall prosper.” ¬†(Ps. 1:3b) ¬†I have HIS word on it!

And yesterday I got the school done, the laundry started, the food cooked, the floor swept, the bread made and still had time to paint the chalkboards on the pantry door (DIMS Day!) and the energy for church in the evening!

It’s all in my perspective: ¬†believing the lie or believing the truth.

And That’s What’s Reflecting on the Pond.


Sunny and Cool Sunday Afternoon

With a good football game on to boot!

What a beautiful fall day. ¬† Of course, it’s October cold instead of September warm, but it is a nice crisp day.

I haven’t done any spectacular to report on in the last couple of weeks. ¬†I did pick up a free cabinet that Kristen and I are going to paint and use to store canned goods and canning supplies in the basement. ¬†I cleaned it up this past week, but now it needs to be sanded before I can repaint and then it will be a new surface for Kristen and her paint brush. ¬†I was pretty excited to pick it up for free off of craigslist.

We’re hoping we have a buyer for the sheep this week. ¬†He emailed yesterday but I haven’t heard back. ¬†We really want to see Joy and Stormie go for breeding and not for someone’s feast – I’ve had a couple of calls from people with heavy accents (how do you say that without sounding prejudiced?), but it would break my heart to know they were butchered. ¬†Fortunately, I’ve been able to say that I have a sale pending – thank you, God!

We picked apples on Friday and got 1 1/2 bushels of drops for the price of a 1/2 bushel picked off the tree. ¬†I was doing some math for my homesteader ladies and last year the drops that became applesauce saved me as follows: ¬†applesauce in the little cups runs around $1.88 (last time I bought it) and I’d buy 6 pkgs. a month. $11.28/month x 12 = $125.36. ¬† ¬†I saved on applesauce last year – $125.36 – ¬†$24 for the 4 oz. jars I invested in ¬†= $101.36. ¬†This year my Mom has given me another dozen jars, so the savings will be even more significant. ¬†Of course, it’s a lot of work to do all of those batches of applesauce.

The girls came home from the barn on Friday with a 50# feed bag full of sweet corn that the trainer had given us. ¬†Sweet corn is something I just didn’t have the resources for this year and now I’ll still be able to put some in the freezer!

Did I mention that we butchered our old chickens? ¬†I didn’t cry and Sarah will be commemorated with a plaque naming the new chicken coop for her. ¬†We boiled up the carcasses and got 25 1/2 cups of chicken stock and 10 cups of usable meat. ¬†The meat was really tender. ¬†We used 4 cups of the meat in a pot pie and it was very tasty. ¬†I’m going to BBQ some of it too.

I only got 11 pints of pears from our tree. ¬†A lot of the pears were tiny or too full of bugs and bad spots, so the chickens got quite the feast from them. ¬†They’ve also been getting quite the feast from my garden. ¬†The old girls never tried to squeeze through the fence into the garden, but these gals go right through the holes and eat my green tomatoes!! ¬†I chase them around with a stick and have to climb on the compost to finally get them out. ¬†I may have to do something much different with my garden fence.

I went through a nightmare trying to download my much raved about Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. ¬†We’re on super slow internet so I got up Thursday night to download and the link wouldn’t work. ¬†I emailed and tried again Friday night with no luck. ¬†I emailed customer service again and she sent me a new link since they had reports of problems with satellite connections not working. ¬†Up AGAIN last night (have I ever mentioned that I like to sleep all night?) and the new link worked. ¬†I downloaded everything including two videos on using herbs. ¬†Today I ordered the bonus freebies that interested me and signed up for two ecourses. ¬†I have lots of reading to do and I’m excited about it.

And That’s What’s Happening on the Hobby Farm.