Garden Update: Summer 2018

Hi there! Long time no read huh?! We’ve been finishing the school year, and summer-ing it up over here at the Yellow House and although I have three different posts I’m working on (it is a creative junk drawer in my brain right now) in my drafts folder for the last month, I haven’t finished one of them….until now.

Before I share what’s going on in our garden-which we are VERY excited about-I want to share some other things I grew, and am VERY proud of.

Landon graduated from the sweetest little preschool of all time.

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He did so well in school this year. He had the best teachers, he learned so much, and I am confident he is ready for Kindergarten. We are so proud of him.

Also, he is currently in his awkward, unnatural smiling phase accompanied by goofy thumbs up. In every picture. It’s like a reflex now, it’s like he can’t help himself. *mom holds up her phone to take picture* = *goofy smile and thumbs up*. SO many things we’ll never understand.

AND, Carolynn finished First Grade.

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She is that kid that just does school. She likes learning, and wants to do well. I had to make her laugh for this picture because she is still residing in “awkward smile for posed photo phase”.

After her class party, we met daddy for lunch at one of their favorites places for Carolynn’s favorite food-burritos.

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This picture cracks me up every time. They are so goofy.

They smile all the time, I swear. Getting a smiling, serious picture from these two is akin to getting a picture of bigfoot, or a unicorn.

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There’s also this, which does capture Carolynn’s genuine feelings in the moment.

Oh well. I’ll play some sudoku, take Ginko Biloba. Maybe I’ll just remember their natural smiles. *sigh*

Anyway, we are so blessed with two great schools where we had another great year.

Since the title of this post is “Garden Update” I think I should probably get to that….I’m so excited to show you!

Back in the spring, I posted about our garden, (read it here) and how we (Brian and the kids) prepped it, planned it and planted it. Here’s a picture of the garden from that post. (we built the beds last year)

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These are our potatoes and onions.

And here’s the potatoes we’ve pulled up, and eaten since then! We’ve never grown potatoes, and it was so fun to pull up the plant and count how many spuds we’de grown.

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Another first, we grew cucumbers! We were so excited to see these beauties on the vine.

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We’ve picked two of them so far, and used them to make refrigerator pickles. We haven’t eaten one yet, and we are not so patiently waiting for them to be ready to eat in…32 hours. But who’s counting?

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We’ve also got lots of tomatoes coming in and I have many ideas for these tomatoes. My first idea is to EAT THEM. But also, freeze them, sauce, tomato jam, sun dried tomatoes and learning how to can/preserve them. I am nervous about the canning…but not the eating.

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Last fall, we had a random spaghetti squash plant come up in our compost. Carolynn with her blessed, childlike hopes, planted it in the garden and it actually produced several spaghetti squash. When we recently found another little sprout, we planted it and hereis it’s little baby. Hopes grow spaghetti squash. But we also water it and stuff.

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Brian recently put up this shade cloth to protect the plants from that scorching afternoon sun.

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In this bed, we also have onions, 4 okra plants, roma tomatoes, 2 green bean plants and two cucumber plants.

In the ground, we’ve got some tiny little melons growing. Look how cute:

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And some tiny zucchini:

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Like everything we’re trying to establish here, this season’s garden has been a learning experience. We have read a lot and tried a lot and we are still getting the hang of it. We’ve watered, and wiped off aphids, pulled weeds and walked through the garden everyday looking at each plant. There is such a joy, and personal satisfaction of caring for the plants that grow actual food.

We have made three batches of pesto (a pesto post-o is one of the above mentioned drafts I’m working on) from the basil we’ve grown in this garden:

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This bed also has cilantro, dill, rosemary and strawberries. We haven’t had a large strawberry harvest, but both kids have eaten their fair share of them plucked right off the plant.

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Having this land gives us the opportunity and space to have a garden, and having a garden is another way we can honor this land and be blessed by it.

Do any of you have a garden this summer? Anyone know how to can? Want to show me, or direct me to any good blogs on the subject? I’m ready to add another skill to my, “Adventure Life Resume”: “Master Canner”….Or maybe just, “Canner”…..Or “Can if she has to”.

Thanks for being here, and keeping up with our adventures! Always, always glad you’re here on my little blog, to follow along with our adventures.

Steph

 

 

Ranch life update: the dirty birds.

Hello. It is day 37 of our captivity ….with the birds. At this point, they have lived in a cardboard box, a large tote, two large totes, and now they are living inside a pen with a tarp under it.

It won’t be too much longer until they can move out to their cute little coop full time, but until they get all their feathers, they can’t stay out overnight.

But, while inside, the ducks make bubbles in the water, flinging it everywhere. The chickens fly out of the pen. I’ve found two plops of poop on the floor, one of which had been ground into the rug, which I thought was in the “safe zone”.

It’s white. of course it is. There is no safe zone. The guest room’s gone to the birds.

Speaking of poop, they do it a lot.

Probably my biggest complaint is what I’ve been referring to as, “the chicken dust”. It is a layer of dander, feathers, fuzz and just…what seems like dust. But from the birds. It is grossing me out. And no, it’s not just “regular dust”, I’m not an animal. THEY are. It is covering everything in that room, which is filled with my great grandparent’s (as in: family heirloom/antique) master bedroom set. But, without a garage, that’s where they had to go and that’s where they’ll stay for a bit longer.

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The “chicken dust”. You can see where I set my phone down to draw that smily face. Blech.

The coop is looking good, and they do spend a lot of the day in there. Brian planned out, and perfectly executed his plan for a little chicken door.

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We set up an electric fence so that they can roam in the yard and be safe from predators. Obviously, we’de love for them to roam completely freely, but that’s just not possible out here.

We let them out into their fence shortly after setting it up, and the naughtiest of the chickens, who B and I call, “StacyTracy” (because we can’t tell Stacy and Tracy apart) just hopped her little self right through the fence. Last week, wicked little StacyTracy scratched the dickens out of my finger. Think like a papercut , but x10.

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So, the fence does shock you if you touch it, and will keep predators away, we hope. But for now, they’re still too small/too naughty and can’t be left out there alone. You can see the nesting boxes well in this picture. We made five, one box for 2-3 chickens, so we have room to grow our flock.

Here they are watching, while we were finishing up the coop.

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The fence is easily moveable, so once those chicas start laying eggs, we’ll rearrange it so that we can get into the nests. We built the nesting boxes so we can open up and grab the eggs from the outside.

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While I do complain about living with chickens and ducks (Joey and Chandler would never have actually enjoyed living with two full grown birds in an apartment. I know this now.) I do also realize the sweet memories we’re making for the kids, and ourselves.

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A sweet boy and his duck, Dumpling. (Every.pair. of his pants looks like that.)

Getting chickens and ducks, building a coop, living with birds, and one day collecting and eating fresh eggs are another adventure for us and part of our big plan to embrace the “country life”.

While I am a clean person, living with dirty birdies, even I can see the value of this phase. I am looking forward to those eggs ….and the hella deep cleaning I’m going to give that room in a few weeks.

Always, thanks for reading! I love that you’re here for another adventure! -Steph

Ranch life update: the garden

Good morning! While winter was a time of planning, and resting, spring however, has been off to a busy start! We are finishing up our chicken coop and run, planting our garden and building a shop/garage. In this post, I’de love to share with you all that’s going in the garden.

Before spring began, we planted seeds to grow inside until warmer days came. They lined our kitchen windows and got lots of spritzing and encouraging words from us until last weekend where they got their place in our garden.

While the seedlings grew their roots indoors, Brian set up some irrigation for the gardens and he, and C planted potatoes and onions outside.

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While I was away on a girl’s trip, Brian and the kids pulled up A LOT of weeds and built up some rows behind the raised beds. We are planting some of the same things both in the ground rows, and in the raised beds. We’re interested in seeing where the plants thrive most. All our soil has some of our homemade compost added (read about how we made our compost bins, and some other projects here), with homemade cedar mulch (read about how we made our mulch here) on top.

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Here are the seedling babies, all grown up and ready to go outside. Most of them are tomatoes-cherry, 4th of July, and roma- and some are jalapenos. The seeds we have going directly in the ground are: okra, squash, cucumbers, green beans and melons.

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In another bed, we tilled up the soil, added compost, manure and some fresh dirt. We planted: basil, cilantro, strawberries, catnip, rosemary, dill and garlic chives. The strawberries were sampled, and the cilantro was sampled/eaten to the ground by the cows. Ugh. Our fence is easily compromised. But, the strawberry plants have recovered, and now they’re just being sampled by us. We have plans for a permanant fence -coming soon. (Read about how the cows convinced us to put up a fence)

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This is in the backyard, right below the porch.

Something we keep learning, like death and taxes, your plans WILL change. The weather will force you to delay, your tools will be broken, you don’t have that one thing you need, you measured twice but still didn’t get it quite right. It’s difficult sometimes (especially for two type A people …ahem) to roll with these punches. As a parent, it’s been important to model that that’s. just. life. (I am not always a great model for this, or for many of my other faults for that matter.) We are thankful to have these opportunities to improve this place for our family and hopefully instill the values we hold dear.

I recently found a list of “ranch goals” in a large binder of my grandma’s things. She passed away almost 14 years ago, and here we are on this ranch, trying to be good stewards and leave it better than we found it, and here are her words inspiring me, from maybe 20 years ago? 25? It’s typed on a typewriter for goodness’ sake. There were several, but here’s one that really got me:

“Quality of life…Our Earth, ranch and community to be better for our having been here.”

I have chills. In this season of hard work here at the yellow house, and on this ranch, these words from the past have been a beautiful and inspiring reminder of our purpose. It is our great pleasure to be here. To work hard and leave it, “better for our having been here.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I hope your spring is off to a great start! Are y’all planting gardens? What are you growing?

Posts coming soon about the progress on the coop, raising the chicks and ducklings and the building of our shop/garage! See you then, I hope!

Thanks for reading!  -Steph

 

 

 

Chickens….and an accompanying impulse buy

We got the baby chicks! AND, drumstick…errr…drumROLL please, we also got ducks. After lots of researching for the best breed of chickens for our family, we tossed (not literally) two ducks into our cart like an impulse pack of gum.  I’m exaggerating slightly. Think you’ve got us figured out? Think again. Months of research AND a last minute decision. We are so unpredictable.

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Spoiler alert: the ducks are a mess. They are fuzzy, and cute and fun and…so nasty.

They like to wash their food down with water. Translation? They turn their water into a sludge that needs to be changed out several times a day. That’s not even mentioning the duck drool and dribble they drip from food trough to water dish, soaking the whole brooder. Ick. Cute, fuzzy, messy little ducklings.

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We call this one, “Dumpling”

While we are still working on completing the coop, they are living in two boxes under a heat lamp. They can’t move into the coop until they’re about 4-5 weeks and they won’t start laying for about 6 months.

We started them out together, in a large cardboard box, but the ducks grew exponentially that first week and it got crowded. Plus, they were being pretty rude roomates by pooping their giant poops everywhere, amidst their drool and dribble. Let’s be honest, it was only a matter of time until they got evicted.

We now have them in two plastic storage type boxes, with the light between them.

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As for the coop, we’ve completed, and painted the nesting boxes, cut a chicken/duck door, painted the human sized door and started screening everything in.

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We used the same color on the coop door as our yellow house door. (Pittsburgh Paint “Stormy Ridge”)

 

 

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We are using hardware cloth around the bottom and as a skirting to protect against predators. This step has been the most difficult so far, but it’s important to get the hardware cloth secure to ensure your birds will be safe inside the coop.

We’ve heard that chickens are the “gateway” to all things “farm”, or “homestead”….time will tell, I guess. For now, I know some kids who are pretty pleased with their new pets.

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Thanks for reading! -Steph

 

 

You build the coop. The chickens will come.

So, let’s not make this awkward ok?! I haven’t blogged in many moons. 4 months to be exact. Pretty much the entire winter. We’ll call it blogbernation (blog hibernation). 

I’ve been meaning to spruce up my blog, so that it would have a new look for 2018. Well, it does have a new look….deserted….but also improved! I transferred all my posts (and added a handy search feature) and got my own .com! 

It is now offically ready for 2018, and more adventures for the Smiths. 

Thanks for coming back! I’m happy you’re here to read about our latest adventures. 2018, here we come!

We recently began our next project, and it’s a big one…..We’re getting chickens!

We have been researching a lot: raising the chicks, breeds, types of eggs, and how many to get, coop size, where it should go, and how to set up the fencing. We had decided on 12 chickens with 3 hens from 4 different breeds: Americaunas, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, and Barred Rocks. To decide, we gathered lots of info by listening to podcasts (that’s Brian’s territory), reading blogs, and checking out books from the library. (I enjoyed this one.  )

With that information decided, we knew we would need a coop 8 X 6, with 5 nesting boxes (you need one nesting box for every 2-3 laying hens).

I won’t attempt to include step by step instructions, there are lots of helpful blogs out there that do a better job of that than I could do. (Backyardchickens.com has TONS of coop inspiration and plans.)

BUT, I would love to share with you what we’ve done so far!

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The foundation

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Starting some nails for us
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Playing while mom and dad work on the coop.
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phase one: the frame is complete!

I’ll keep everyone updated on the coop and the chicks, and as always, so glad you’re here and thanks for reading!

Steph

How the Cows Convinced us to put up a Fence

A few weeks ago, Brian came home and caught a cow red-hoofed (y’all. I actually laughed at that. Thank you for understanding) eating his grill cover. Just chewing that thing like it was meant for her.

Can we pause for a moment to recognize the irony of a cow chewing on a grill cover that probably tastes like what we’ve been grilling? Uh huh. Like hamburgers, and steaks. Watch yourself Bessie-you could be next.

Anyway, he “hey-ed!!” that heifer just so she could regurgitate it for him. Which was cute.

So besides the slobber, and stomach contents (*gag), it had a few holes.

That same week, a frisky little calf knocked a handmade pot off the front steps and broke it. The nerve.

(Dear Aunt Sara, need new pot. XO) As if that wasn’t enough, it had a real live plant it it….. that I had kept ALIVE no less. Oh, now it’s on.

When we first moved in, almost 6 months ago, putting up a fence was one of the top three things on our list. But, it kept getting bumped down the list for things that were more imminent, maybe easier…..and let’s just be honest here,  we had some apprehension about working with barb wire. BUT, now that we’ve got these cows acting like those two naughty Siamese cats from Lady and the Tramp, we needed to get serious. I have enough trouble keeping my plants alive (Ok, it was a succulent), thank you.

First, we drew out some ideas of how we wanted to enclose the yard. We decided that the “fence of our dreams” looks something like this.

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Click picture for link 🙂

We have watched some videos and read some tutorials about how to make a fence like this. We are/want to be “do it yourself-ers” (read: gluttons for punishment) so all the plans we’ve made on the fence thus far are temporary. For now, they will keep the cows from trying to digest our property/kill themselves and buy us time to build our dream fence around the house weekend by weekend. Or maybe the kids and I can take a trip (ooooh. The beach maybe??) and  B can just tackle that fence while we’re gone (Like the deck). Just kidding. Unless you want to honey….

We technically have 10 acres, and we certainly didn’t want to fence out our whole section. So, we needed to decide what we considered our “yard”. Since we’ve lived here, we’ve referred to the cattle as our, “yard crew”.

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They kept the grass short for us and we haven’t spent a minute mowing. We took that into consideration when choosing the size of yard to fence in. Whatever is in the fence will be our job to keep mowed. We also didn’t want to take more grass than we had to for the cows, even though they are naughty.

We already fenced in our garden beds, also as a temporary solution, to rabbits, cows and deer, so we used that existing fence line to fence in the yard.

Using a t-post driver, we drove in the t-posts to create the fence line we planned out. (Read about how we drove the t-posts in my “Adventures in Fencing” post)

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Here are the materials we collected for the fence:

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All the how-tos we read about putting up barb-wire fences stressed the importance of planting a post firmly with cement to secure the line and keep it taut and straight. Like good little diy-ers, we ignored that advice.

Being a temporary solution, we didn’t want to permanently put in posts. Since we didn’t have as sturdy a corner brace as we should have, we decided not to use the wire stretcher contraption, pictured above. It’s purpose is the pull the wire as taut as possible. Which is great, except we knew that pulling it as taut as possible would lean our insufficiently supported corner posts too much.

We used our ranch muscles to pull that barb wire and attach it to the t-posts with the clips.

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The red box is it’s own project, which I’ll share with you later.


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We pulled three strands all the way around.

See that big roll of wire? We would unroll it, VERY carefully. One of us would unroll while the other went along the line, yes, VERY carefully, pulling it tight and taut. We would then use a clip to attach it to the post.

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Could we just call my lack of photography skills endearing? Thank you.

Oh, the clips. I struggled with those frickin’, frackin’, dadgum @$#!&!!…I mean things. Brian would say, “let’s race!” igniting my competitive spirit. He would clip his strand and I would clip….but really just struggle to…Oh it was no competition, my friends. It was only frustrating….for me. B would ask, like a sweet husband, “want me to do it?” to which I would snap, “no. Go away!” I was sure THIS time I would clip that stupid, stupid thing on. Ugh.

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But, we did it. It was two days of hard work, in the hot sun, but we can now say we put up our own barb wire fence. I don’t want to sound like I’m not proud, but it’s pretty obvious when you see it that we did it ourselves. But it does the job we need it to do, and it’s another skill experience we can add to our “Adventure Life Resume”.  Which isn’t a real thing, and pretty much just means this blog. 🙂

If you happened upon this post in hopes of finding a DIY how-to on how to string your own fence, I am SO happy you’re here. But friend, fellow fence builder, please google or pin another post. I am not trying to advise anyone on fencing…But come back soon okay?!

Thank you for reading!! I am working on a special birthday post for next week, so don’t miss it! Put your e-mail into the “Follow our Adventures by email” box so you never miss a post! You can consider it my birthday present. XO, Steph

A Deck Built from Railroad Ties and Leftover Wood!

Last week, the kids and I went on a two night trip to visit my grandparents. We love to stay with them and always have such a good time.

I have mentioned before, but Mr. Adventure Life and I both are blessed with really super families. Spending time with our families only reminds us to spend more time with them. We genuinely respect, love and like them.

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Landon with Papa, and one of his “famous” Mickey Mouse pancakes ❤

 

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Playing on the back porch

 

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At the Abilene Zoo, feeding the giraffes


These trips make some really special memories for my kids.  

 So while the kids, mimi and I were playing cards and eating mema’s banana pudding, Brian was working hard at his job job and then coming home to work hard at the Yellow House. What a guy.

 In an attempt to use some leftover railroad ties, Brian came up with a plan using the railroad ties, and some leftover boards and screws from our build (those guys really throw away a lot of usable material) to build a deck for his grill.

 Before we get into it, I would like to mention that I tried to get him to write this post. He was, after all, the one that created, and built his deck……but it’s me, Stephanie. I’ll do my best to describe the process, although I really just want to brag. 🙂

 Using some Pinterest inspiration (Pinspiration, if you please), he came up with his plan to use what we had laying around to build it.

 

Here’s some of that Pinspiration for you:

 http://daisymaebelle.com/railroad-tie-and-concrete-block-deck/


Here’s the Yellow House version:

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Instead of using the concrete blocks like the above blogger suggested, Brian purchased 6 brackets for $1.50 (The TOTAL price of this deck!) which he attached to the ties and used to place the boards. He came up with that himself so that he could use the boards we had. Brains and beauty, people.  I am so impressed!

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I am so proud of this, and him. It was created by Brian, built in four hours (of hard work!), for a TOTAL of $1.50 (for those brackets). It is sturdy, and I think it looks so good. It’s rustic and suited to our house, but was also almost free. But, like many projects, it also provided another learning opportunity.

 “Brian, have you ever built a deck?”

 “Yes, I have. Using discarded scraps and screws actually.”

 Bam.

 *Special shout out to Brian’s dad, too! He also has a paying job, and helped out after work. Hard work runs in the family, I guess. 🙂

The Smiths vs. The Cedars

Remember a while back I mentioned that we were clearing cedar trees around the house? Of course you do, my loyal readers. 😉 In case that doesn’t ring a bell, let me refresh…Since we’ve moved in we have been pulling out and cutting down cedar trees that were clustered around our big, beautiful oak trees. Because of that clearing, we have been able to hang a swing, and make a play area for Miss C to have a tea party (Read about it here).

But, ever since we did all the clearing (cutting, dragging, piling) the trees have been in 9 huge piles around the house. Cute huh? To be honest, it actually didn’t bother me that much. We have had many visitors come stay, and surprisingly, I didn’t worry about having piles of downed trees around.

At my old house, I would have been stressing if I had people coming and there were piles of unraked leaves in the yard. But here, it’s life. If I decided not to have people out because I had unfinished or partially completed projects around, it would be YEARS. YEARS until we could share this place, our life, with our family and friends. So step over the downed trees, drive over the potholes, don’t step in that cow patty and get yerself over here, sweet guests!

Ok, back to the trees….B rented a shredder from a equipment rental company.

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The lesson we learned when we were pulling up and moving the trees is that you need to be completely covered. Long sleeves, pants, gloves. Brian even made himself a pair of wristbands from old socks. Those trees will slice you up. We added ear protection to this step because that sucker was LOUD.

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We would take a tree from the pile, put it in the shredder….oh. It doesn’t fit like that. Try this way. Ouch!  Look out for that giant spider….it was a nasty business, y’all. I received a mean right hook and an unexpected uppercut from some wily tree trunks spitting back out. We were toast. But, we took two days and tackled all 9 of our piles (above picture is of ONE pile) and also 2 piles from another spot on the ranch. We turned all those trees into 11 (surprisingly not that big) piles of mulch.

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While working those two days, the kids were such troopers. They played outside, they played inside, C even made lunch for the two of them.

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Painting on the porch

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Camping out in the back of the van.

This was a challenging project, but another thing that we’ve learned to do here at the ranch. Now we can add, “getting our booties kicked shredding cedar trees” to our adventure life resume.

We are blessed beyond for these opportunities. It is overwhelming, gratifying, exhausting, eye-opening, challenging and exactly what we want to be doing. Well, except for getting my bell rung by tree trunks. Could have done without that.

As always, I appreciate everyone reading and following along with all our adventures.

Adventure Awaits,

Steph

 

Summer, I love you.

Today is the last Friday of the school year for us and I am really excited for summer! Summer has always been my favorite season. Yes, I know, it’s hot. People always feel the need to tell me that.
“But it’s so hot.” Yes, it sure is. I’m a native Texan, this is my time. I love the heat, I love the pool, I love wearing flip flops, the lazy mornings, church camp, summer camp, fireflies, snow cones, running through the sprinkler, family vacations, grilling, keeping your pool pony tail for DAYS, reading tons of books, the beach, the lake….it’s just the best. I’ve always loved it.From my deep pit of teenage angst, I counted down the days until summer camp like a survivor on a desert island. Scratching a tally mark for each never ending day until I could finally be “rescued” and go back to where I “belonged” : Camp.  Mom, dad, sorry about being a dramatic and unreasonable teenager.

So, here are a few outdoor projects we’ve done just in time to be enjoyed this summer.

Bring on the Summer!

 

This swing used to hang out by my grandad’s pool. The tree we hung it from is a bit outside our dining room window and had a swing-worthy branch on it, for sure.

The swing is chippy, and a bit weathered but I liked the look so I gave it a sanding to smooth it out and sprayed it with water seal spray.

 

Brian did some research and found that the most humane way to hang something from a tree is actually by screwing your hooks into the branch. That way the tree can continue to grow around the screws. (Hanging chains over can dig into the branch) We screwed in the hooks, then used “s” hooks to hang our chain.

 

A “nature tea table where I can have a tea party with all my dolls” was requested by Ms. C. She and Brian drew up some plans, looked at some wood scraps and put this sweet little table and benches together in an afternoon. The benches are blocks of limestone, and the table is a stump with a board screwed into the top. C picked out a fabric scrap that we glued on and waterproofed. The animals and dolls have been talking about it ever since. It’s the best outdoor tea party any of us had ever been to. 😉

 

Over at the Ranch house, we re-mulched the bed and planted a few new native plants, like Mexican sage and rosemary, but also portulaca and sweet potato vine. This little chair has been broken for years, but we have had it stored away. We just knew we could think of something to use it for. I pulled out some screws, shimmied that pot in there and again, I waterproofed.

 

This old crock was another old treasure we’ve had for a while.

I just love that old fence. We are slowly replacing the fence around the house, but this fence stays. Since it’s elevated off the ground (it’s built on a rock wall), we’ll leave it for “looks” and sentimentality. There are pictures of us as kids, out by the pool and that fence is there. It looks much less “rustic”, but I just love how authentic it is and to me, it epitomizes the ranch house. “I’m hanging in there. I still work-kind of. I was built by hand, and built well.” Turns out even a well-built fence can’t remain functional for 60 years.

Anyone else favor summer? Do you like to be busy? Just hang out?

Whatever you do-remember, it’s hot. 😎

Thanks for reading!! -Steph