Sunday, April 8, 2018

Totally Wired





In June, Keith and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary. A few years ago we discussed several options for this event and one was an Alaskan Cruise. I love water, he loves the wilds of nature, so it felt perfect. But plans don't always materialize, nor do large amounts of money for said plans . Life throws us curve balls. We learn to duck. We regroup.

Now, our greatly restructured plans involve a trip right here in our home state. Instead of traveling 3600 miles to see a few whales, we'll be motoring just 230 miles to Quincy Illinois on the Mississippi River, where we hope to see a few Catfish.

Compromises. We're getting good at them.

So what does this all have to do with a big spool of electrical wire? Plenty. When our good friend Jay heard of our change in anniversary plans, he wanted to fund the trip for us. Generous. He is so generous. But we could not with good conscious accept his offer. He said to us, "Then tell me what you do want or I'll end up getting you something you don't".

We came up with wire.

To finish our barn we need a south wall, a loft, walls for Keith's shop and electrical wire. Wire to run electricity to the barn and to my writing studio. And so, Jay bought us the wire as our 25th anniversary gift and we could not be happier.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Wearing Dead People's Clothes





Born Leather Driving Moccasins Brand New in Box
Paid $1.00 at Church Rummage Sale


Decades ago I wore suits and heels to work. Not such a handsome sight as I was much heavier, but still, it was the culture I worked in. I believed success was measured by a label and the amount paid for that label. Silly me.

Crawl forward to 2018 and 95% of our clothing comes from thrift stores or family. I have three sisters and we are constantly swapping clothes. Love my sisters.

Once a year or so though, Keith needs a new pair of rubber chore boots and I've yet to source a good pair for him for cheap. I shop in the thrift store nearby every week as a rule. Sometimes I buy a lot and sometimes very little, but I am always buying for the next season and the season after that.

I may not need a winter chore coat right now, but it's certain I'll need one later so better to buy it in mid August when available for $1.99, then have to pay retail price later because of poor planning.

Of that 95% , I estimate about 50% of those clothes come from dead people. How do I know? Well, because in our neck of the woods the thrift shop owners have a wicked sense of humor and isolate those clothes in a separate part of the shop under a sigh that blares, "Deceased Duds".

I'm kidding.

 Some actual tell tale signs though are names like "Ethyl, Marjorie, Fred and Ralph" written in black permanent marker inside the collar or on the clothing tag. Generally these folks lived in nursing homes where clothing is easily mixed up and identifying them by first or last name is routine. I've yet to come across the name "Buffy" or "Skylar" inscribed on a tag but as the younger population ages, it's just a matter of time.

After a person dies, families are then left with the task of sorting through the returned clothes, many of which are donated to thrift shops. BINGO! I then get a great deal.

It is amazing and equally appalling the huge number of clothing that filters through the US. Many I find at our local thrift stores are brand new with tags still in place, no tags but barely worn, or worn but with lots of wear still left in them. I no longer bother with Goodwill who has elevated their prices to near retail amounts over the last year, but instead concentrate my shopping at four local thrift stores located within 15 miles from me. I am a great supporter of church rummage sales as well.

Some folks are creeped out by buying used clothing which I've never understood. "New" clothing that comes off the rack at Macy's or Dunnes has likely been handled, sneezed upon, or dropped on the floor just as often as used clothing. An intact sale tag does not guarantee cleanliness. A good wash and hang outside fixes most ills regardless of the source.

Of course I am selective about what I buy. No stains, no holes and zippers must work. In addition, I complete a through crotch check looking for suspicious spots and fabric wear. This is an essential skill but best to leave off any resume.

If the item is intended only for outside chores, then stains on legs and knees is no big deal. I also sniff clothing. Heavy smoke smells are left behind but a wash in white vinegar can clear up mild smoke smells easily, along with a day or two in a plastic bag in our freezer. What we cannot use, gets sold on eBay for some extra cash.

I have sent jeans to Australia, blouses to England and Birkenstock shoes to Somalia.

Additionally, I buy clothing gifts for GK's in thrift stores and the older ones have learned the value of spending their own money there. When I'm dead they may not remember that I read them a little Shakespeare or made them listen to the Eagles and Crosby, Stills and Nash, but at least they can say "She taught me how to source dead people's clothes."

One cannot expect higher praise. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

First Day of Spring Walk About The Poor Farm


I've always enjoyed it when bloggers can share bigger views of their homes/farms. Everything we see is usually in close ups as if fellow bloggers life in three dimensional boxes or perfectly placed frames. I often do the same, small pictures here and there but not enough of the whole scene. So I followed my own desire and ventured out to the far edges of the property to get some better views for you. 

Actually Keith and I were walking the perimeter of our seven acres checking fences, but lets pretend .it was all of you I had in mind. 

To the left is our metal grain bin house, Just to the right of that is the old 1865 house we'll be tearing down this summer. To the right of that is the old feed shed and the new barn, which is very hard to see, is behind that old feed shed. Then to the farther right is my red and white writers studio. The last dark building is an old pig shed built in the 19th century we believe. 


Above is the same view but moving to the north a bit in order to see our tiny pond which is to the left of the large weeping willow tree. The main road that runs in front of our property is to the left of the pond. One day we hope to dig out that pond and expand it. For now, it houses hoards of frogs which are making a lovely sound in the evenings as they call out for mates. 



Walking south we pass by an area of deadwood which has a charm of its own. The GK's enjoy climbing on the lower branches and in the hot summer it is a cool place to retreat. Future plans include a shade garden here with  Hosta, Lily of the Valley, Astilbe, etc.. and a comfy place to sit.

I never tire of the old wooden posts put in by the farmers who lived here decades ago, wrapped with the barb wire that was used to fence in livestock. The electric wire we use to enclose the acreage  today sits within the old fence, so our animals are not at risk of being harmed by the old barbwire. With every walk though, there are loose pieces to pick up and discard. 


 Here is our cemetery site. A small corner section of our 7 acres set aside for family burials when the time comes. Now,. we use it for pasture for our two steers but future plans include a wind break of lilac trees. To the south and west of our family cemetery is plowed ground owned by neighboring farmers.


This dang green stuff above is Hemlock. Poisonous and invasive we struggle to control it in several sections of our property. Amazing how green it is already when very little else is coming up . 


And finally the view from the other side of the farm where you can see the new and still-under-construction barn on the left , the 1865 house in center and our chicken house behind the tiny blue barrel. The white shed on the right houses our four feeder pigs. The grain bin house is covered by trees. We located all our buildings in the center of our property with the pastures surrounding us. We did that for convenience of chores and for economy in running water and electrical lines. 

Finishing up our third year here, it's obvious we still have a very long way to go before I get the pretty little farm I dream of. But, we've made great progress.  With spring officially here, and about 50 packets of flower seeds on my kitchen table, I have hope we'll make substantial strides towards the aesthetic this summer. 

I have discovered that flowers, like snow, can cover a multitude of sins.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Spring Cleaning and Painting and Framing and Finishing


We moved here in April of 2015 and lived in a dinky 1978 Shasta Camper for six months while we built our Grain Bin House. Move in day was mid October that year .

I'd like to say we moved in because the Grain Bin was complete but the truth was, we had no heat or bathroom in the camper and we were tired of showering outside. Brrrr. The rooms in the Grain Bin were dry walled, the stairs were finished, and the bathroom was functioning but that was about it. That winter we painted walls and built our kitchen.

Then we got busy with the next spring's garden and since I was still in school full time, all the bits and bobs inside were left undone. Like framing two windows, putting floor trim up, patching holes left by the dry wallers (and us), hanging the rest of the lights and putting a door on our bedroom, to name just a few.

But last week we got crackin' and dished out a few bucks at our local Menards in order to finish what we started. Problem is-space. It's too cold to paint outside or work in Keith's unheated workshop in the old creepy house, so we had to spread out in our living area downstairs. The rocket mass stove and my laundry rack both were put to use as substitute sawhorses.




Quite the mess we made with all the window frames that had to be painted and then allowed to dry. Plus moving items out of the pantry in order to close in the stair case and paint it.

But, we are making progress on our to do list whether it looks like it or not. In Keith's regular fashion, he used all recycled wood for the window frames. Some came from a sister's kitchen remodel while other pieces came from the creepy house. A door frame there (easily 100 years old) became a new window frame here. Paint does work miracles.






We still have drapes to hang in the upstairs among other things but we expect to have it all done before the weather warms up.

As soon as THAT happens we're back working on the barn!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Wing


 It's a simple title for a simple post.



This is Wing. A diminutive rooster born and raised on The Poor Farm. For whatever reason he came directly out of his shell with a broken right ring. See how it hangs low, in the above photo. His siblings denied rough housing and his mother denied taking any drugs or abusing alcohol during his incubation.

The father has never been clearly identified.

We certainly considered a euthanasia approach to this little guy but his spirit was astonishing. he kept up with his family, stayed close to his mother and thrived. As he aged though we noticed his tendency to end up on his back; a balance issue we decided.



Once a larger animal, like one of our massive dogs, brushed against him, he'd get flipped over and be unable to right himself. Again, we considered sending him to the big free-range pasture in the sky. Instead we'd gently use the tip of our boot and "right" him. He'd take off to find his buddies. Perhaps embarrassed that he needed help.




Over time he has become a loner, choosing to hang closer to our two dogs than to his own kind. Chickens are not always so considerate of the handicapped. At times another rooster will pick on him and he ends up on his back again. Oddly the bullying rooster then backs off, not wanting to be the jerk who picks on another rooster when he's down I suppose.

Now, into Wing's third year, it's become routine to have to "right" him once or twice a day. I worry that if he wanders too far and gets himself flipped over where we don't see him,  he'll simply succumb over a few days, but he seems to know to stick close.

He knows the dogs have the best food and prefers to eat with them, so why wander?

Friday, March 2, 2018

My Writers Studio Comes Back to Life

Image result for Virginai Woolf
A woman must have money and a room of her own
if she is to write fiction
                                                                  - V. Woolf


I've been waiting all winter to get back into my studio and finally with a break in the weather, temps near 60 degrees F on a couple days, I was able to make that happen.

I don't often write about my other life-my writerly life-on this blog, electing to stay focused on farmy things here, but the two worlds do intersect. So, indulge me. 

My writers studio used to be our retail farm store building on our old farm. We had it moved up here in the fall of 2016. I gave the inside walls a new coat of paint and covered the floor with a variety of old carpets we had and a couple new thrift store rugs.


                                                             As a retail store on old farm                                 



                                                     Writers Studio on New Farm






I was working on a Virginia Woolf of the 1940's theme. I so admire her work. I also decorated it similarly to my grandmother's home in Chicago. She, Josephine Mercedes O'Shaughnessy, read her own poetry to me when I was just six. Her mother, my great grandmother, was also a poet. 

The very vintage green couch and matching chair, Sears and Roebuck circa 1930's, was found on Craig's list. The gray wingback chair was a thrift store score last year for just $3. The large wood cabinet we've had for years, it used to store my china, and is probably early 20th century. Now, I shall fill it with books! The dresser came from an aunt of mine and the crackle glass lamps were bought at an antique store near here for just $5 each. I'm still shopping for shades to cover them. On top of the dresser is an antique watch makers tool cabinet gifted to me several Christmas's ago by eldest son. 

I used to display soap in it, so you could say the inside...is very clean.





If anyone has seen lamps like this before, or know anything about the time period they came from, be sure to leave a comment.

My desk used to be my parents dining room buffet which they bought in the early 1960's along with a matching table and chairs. I have no clue to the whereabouts of the table and chairs-probably hocked to buy more macaroni and cheese for their six kids- but after my folks died the buffet came to live with me. For over twenty years it stood in our large farmhouse dining room loaded with family photos which were periodically cleared off to hold the plates, crockpots, bowls etc. for the family holiday meals we hosted. 






You can see by the top it's been a bit abused. Probably at least one or two cigarette burns from my folks, heat marks from the crock pots, oil marks from the food, ink and crayon marks from the offspring and GK's.  Rather it's one archeological dig, this buffet. 

To further add insult to domestic injury, Keith severed its legs to a desk height and voila! I have a place to scribble deep -as well as many shallow-thoughts. I am so happy to have found a place and new use for this piece of furniture. 

The windows are simply draped with vintage Irish lace I found in a charity shop in Dingle, Ireland in 2006. They sold their wares by the inch there and so bought a couple good wool blankets as well. One rests on the gray wingback chair (below) while the other covers a huge gash in the pleather seat of my desk chair, seen above.






Up above the main area of the studio are two lofts, roomy enough if you're lying down. If one bolts upright too fast you're headed for a concussion, compliments of the low loft ceilings.  A donated box spring and mattress from my sister Teresa fills one loft space while the other contains an antique metal box spring with a well-loved futon mattress. The older GK's slept up in the lofts last fall before it got nippy in there. The metal sign on the wall is my father's old truck lettering business sign from the 1970's.



My studio is still without heat or electric, but I can nest in there in the daytime with a couple of blankets around me. Soon I'll be able to comfortably write in there a few hours each day. With luck our budget will allow for us to run electricity to the building this summer. Heat, so I can work there in the winter as well, is on the back burner.

If you are a writer also, published or unpublished, seeking grandiose fame or just writing for the pure pleasure of it. I'd love to have you as a blog reader/commenter over at my other blog home,
O'Shaughnessy Writes

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tearing Down the Haunted House

It's haunted. I know it. You can't be 162 years old and not have a few skeletons in your closets. Which is why I don't go in there after dark, or when its' cloudy outside, or the wind is blowing from the north.

If it blows from the south west though I have no problems. Go figure.

I'm talking about the original frame house on our property which we'll be tearing down this spring. The old girl was in bad shape when we bought this property four years ago, which is why the decision to build a new home out of a recycled grain bin, was a no brainer.

Here's the old girl herself, built in 1856 and home to several families over the decades.



She's covered with cheap vinyl on the outside and had two porches added on in her later years. The roofs over the porches was of poor quality so now both of them are leaking and the floors in them are giving way. Getting in and out of this place gets a bit dicey at times. 



 But, she has served her purpose through her storage capabilities. Keith has used the house's kitchen as his workshop . We didn't trust the wiring in there, so new wiring was run from our electrical post/box back in 2015. That way Keith could use the power tools he needed for building the Grain Bin House.


We also used the old kitchen to store our freezers where we keep all the meat we raise here for our own good eating. After the barn is built these will move into our new barn in a separate storage room. 



 The main portions of the house, the kitchen, living room and downstairs bedroom plus three bedrooms upstairs have remained dry. Thank good ness because we used those rooms to store furniture we still need to sell and/or give away, plus building materials for the rest of the farm, and canning supplies. These items too, will have a new home in the barn when it's done.



The upstairs of the house is cramped and dark. A recently added hall closet-"recently" being in the last 30 years or so-revealed many usable 2x4's Keith will recycle into the barn build.




Because every haunted house needs an EXIT sign don't you think?



Hardware from the mid 19th century.



 Wallpaper in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Good to know we have patriotic spirits about us.

This is what happens when you move from a 3000 SF farm house into an itty bitty Looney Bin


We will pile up debris outside the house as we go this summer, and then rent a large dumpster to haul it all away. I am hopeful we will find some old newspapers, other treasures when we start pulling apart the walls.

The area where this house now stands will be an open park like zone between our grain bin home and the barn, perfect for flower gardens, outdoor seating etc...It will be frustrating to make more messes here on The Poor Farm, but in the end, we'll have a pretty little homestead.

I figure if I keep saying that over and over it might come true.