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.

What Can I Say? Life Sure Got Busy!!

I just re-read my last post – from 2 months ago – ¬†and needless to say nothing has changed in the busy department (and I’m no longer so intentional with my time, but I’m still trying; and I’m back to 10 cups of coffee ūüôā )

We finally pulled off the start of school on August 17th. ¬†On August 26th SugarBelle went into labor. ¬†I don’t know how long it had been when I found her, but the baby was presenting nose first. ¬†Joel and Kristen both reached inside of her to find those legs, but they could only manage to get one hoof forward. ¬†Sugar started to bellow with her contractions and we could tell she was tired. ¬†So, Joel finally just reached in and pulled the calf out. ¬†He was dead. ¬†Exactly what I wanted from her, ¬†a beautiful bull calf. ¬†Joel went to work and Kristen and I cleaned up and buried the calf in our little graveyard. ¬†I hope he’s the only calf we ever put in that little plot.

Thus commenced twice a day milking instead of milk-sharing with a calf. ¬†Honestly that little guy was hefty and probably would have taken more than his fair share of the milk. ¬†We spent a good month absolutely over run with fresh, raw milk! ¬†Kristen has learned to make cheese and though I’m still bombing at yogurt, I’ve mastered a simple cottage cheese. ¬†IMG_1149

Here’s Kristen stirring her very first batch of cheddar cheese.IMG_1150

The very first round of cheddar from the Happy Palace Hobby Farm! ¬†Too bad you can’t see the little pig impression on the wax. ¬†That’s a nod to Kristen’s future – From the Kitchen of the Little Pink Pig (remember Present the pig?)

We were really up the dairy creek when Kristen got sick a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t make cheese. ¬†We had 2 1/2 gallons of soured milk and an entire quart of cream. ¬†We managed to use up 2 1/4 gallons of the milk, but Kristen kept insisting that the cream scared her and so I finally humored her and poured that soured cream and the cream cheese on the bottom down the drain – oh it was hard!!!

On September 9th, Libby went into labor. ¬†We noticed her when we were milking, so Kristen set up shop in the barn. ¬†Hours later little feet protruded, but the head just wouldn’t come out. ¬†Kristen was pulling those little legs for all she was worth. ¬†I finally had the idea to get a hand behind the head and sure enough, next contraction the torpedo launched! ¬†(Kurt had been asking since before Sugar’s labor if a torpedo had launched yet. ) ¬†So, fire in the hole!! ¬†Little Torpedo arrived.

IMG_1148Karra declared him the tiniest thing she had ever seen and I doubt if he weighed more than 20 lbs., maybe 25.

Here he is 5 weeks later!


He definitely has LibertyBelle’s face and I just love his chocolate color! ¬†He looks so scrumptious!! ¬†Two long years until Torpedo Burgers get to the freezer.

For the last two long years I’ve been waiting for Kristen to turn 16 so I could take her to the rodeo to see bull riding for her Sweet 16 outing. ¬†I made the whole family go and we had a pretty good time. ¬†Joel liked the rodeo clown best and Kristen fell in love with the little kids “mutton busting”. ¬†She says her kids are definitely going to do that! ¬†We went to Buckin’ Ohio in Burbank, OH ¬† ¬† ¬†It was a blast. ¬†We couldn’t get any pictures of the action because a) we’re not the greatest photographers and b) they move so fast!!IMG_1154


Kristen had her eye on one cowboy in particular – I don’t think he’s in this picture though he was wearing red chaps. ¬†Anyway, the guy she was watching ended up winning the whole thing! ¬†It was so exciting and she wants to go every year. ¬†She’ll probably want to take her IEA teammates next year!

Speaking of which – season starts on November 1st. ¬†We are going to be so busy (ha ha like we’re not busy now) ¬†We are co-hosting the second show of the season and Kristen may get to go to Penn State to observe a college show and then compete in a show there. ¬†And I have to stay home and milk the cow!!

There is still so much going on around here that I don’t have time to write about today and hope I don’t forget by the next time I type to ya’ll. ¬†My hutch finally has all of the white glass and some other pretties on it and an entire shelf of cookbooks – mine and Kristen’s. ¬†She’s taken over two drawers for her cake decorating and cheese making supplies. ¬†It’s a good thing I pared down my linens to fit in one drawer!! ¬†And Present and Suzanna are having a tea party on the shelf by the cookbooks.

And just to prove I haven’t totally lost my creative streak – a friend sent me a chocolate mint plant and I decided to plant it in the pot from my old coffeemaker and put it on the cheese press base that Kristen made. ¬†TADA!


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



Summer Days

Well, here I sit. ¬†I have a mountain of things I could be doing, should be doing, really NEED to be doing – and I sit. ¬†It’s summer. ¬†The closest thing to summer I’m going to get. ¬†And I sit. ¬†I’m dreaming of lazy summer days with a good book and a shady porch (I’m staring out the window at the sunshine and a sunny lawn). ¬†I can hear screen doors slamming, the distant sound of a quiet (they really used to be that way) radio, and the sounds of people laughing and splashing in the lake. ¬†Now that was summer.

My summer looks more like this: ¬†graduation; wisdom teeth; Pow Wow; Camp Meeting; Life Group; summer camp; trip to grandparents; swim lessons/school/tomatoes. ¬†Yep. ¬†That is June, July and August on the funny farm, I mean, hobby farm. ¬†And here I sit. ¬†I need to be thinking and planning for next school year. ¬†But, hey, THIS school year hasn’t even wrapped up yet; who wants to think about the next one? ¬†I’ll only have two students – and I’ll have to sit on them night and day to get their work done. ¬†My easiest one will be off to college. ¬†Maybe I procrastinate because I left my shopping list notebook at my BFF’s after the garage sale last weekend. ¬†Or maybe I’m just procrastinating!

Or it could just be sadness in my soul. ¬†The family is taking some hard emotional hits right now. ¬†Joel’s dad has stage-4 cancer and the depleted lung function and pain seem to be getting worse quickly. ¬†That’s not something we want to face this summer, or ever. ¬†So, concern for my mother-in-law and having to find emergency animal and pet care are a small, but weighty, burden added to the summer. ¬†Then¬†I found out yesterday that my cousin’s 32-year old son passed away suddenly on Sunday. ¬†So young, not even married a year, and a bright future in front of him. ¬†Hard to believe. ¬†One of the very few college graduates in my family.

But lows also come with highs and Kristen and her IEA team made the front page of the little local paper yesterday! ¬†A great picture of the girls and their coaches and a really nice article. ¬†We are so SO proud of “The Little Team That Did”! ¬†Can’t wait to get my team t-shirt when they get back. ¬†And one of the girls’ national sponsors gave them each gorgeous hats from their company. ¬†LOVE THEM! ¬†The team members are off to Oklahoma City today and Kristen is stuck here helping in the barn. ¬†It hurts so badly that we couldn’t go with them. ¬†But she has her Daisy at home and her Daisy at the barn and that helps a little.

Time to shake the cobwebs loose and readjust my brain molecules.  Thanks for listening!

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


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!


DIMS Day!!

I did it! Mostly by myself. I transformed the cluttered schoolroom into a slightly neater and less messy space. First, I removed the old short bookshelves – 4 of them, and the rolling cart of paint supplies, and the 3 buckets of wheat berries, and the chairs, and the cases of water, AND the towel drying rack and put them all into the living room. Then I swept and mopped the floor.

Now I had a clean space to work with and no I didn’t take before pictures – sorry, I’m new at this.

And then when I woke up at 4am on Saturday and my brain was buzzing with the fact that we had people coming over at noon and the dining room was all in the living room – eeks – I got up and dealt with the doggies and then started thinking and deciding and measuring. Then I moved the bookcase that my Grandpa made from the garage up the sidewalk (in a gentle mist) and up the two steps to the front door. It was now out of the rain and I went around and back into the house. When I opened the door to bring the bookcase in Lexi started her mad dash outside – except there was a big wall blocking her!

I lifted the bookcase inside and moved it into the dining room and up against the far wall where 3 smaller bookshelves had been and it looks right at home. Then I arranged the wheat buckets to the right and the water back to it’s usual home on the left. I placed two of the newer smaller bookshelves along the front wall to serve as a Bible & supplies catchall and a teacher bookshelf. All of the IGs and answer keys in one small bookcase. More room on the big one to move out the girls’ Cores from last year!



Last, but not least, I put the kids’ black cubbies on top of the new bookcase and they look so cozy up there.

IMG_0721  Oops, I cut the top of the globe off Рsorry North Pole!

IMG_0719Pretty little teacher shelves ALL FOR ME! ¬†And a potted spearmint plant on top too. ¬†Don’t teachers always have a plant on their desk?

But wouldn’t you know someone wouldn’t be satisfied! Karra likes to put her tests in a pile next to her cubbie and there is now no longer any room NEXT to her cubby. She had a fit at the removal of her “test putting spot” (it was a good natured fit as fits go). Later yesterday evening while Kristen helped me put together IGs and arranged all of the books in order on the new bookcase (that holds all 3 kids in one place for the first time since Kurt was in Kindergarten!), Karra came down with one of her famous signs – KARRA’S TEST PUTTING SPOT! She rather haughtily pinned it above her cubby and added a sticky note with a big arrow. ¬†(Please note the bowl of cat toys sitting in her “test putting spot” ūüôā )


Apparently I had “mucked with her methods” and that’s something that one just does not do to a Senior!!

I’m proud of how nice the dining room looks. And we are all anxious to get our new and very full and intense school year underway. But this Mom/Teacher still has loads of scheduling left to do before any of those new books get cracked open (Kurt!)

(And the two smaller bookshelves I no longer needed got upcycled to Kristen’s cowgirl bedroom for a book and paint supplies shelf. The TV cart in Kristen’s room will get a new back put on it and be overcycled to Kurt’s room to hold his overflow of books – but that is a project for another DIMS day).

Happy DIMS Day Blogosphere!!