Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why do we bother?

I was doing a little reading on my lunch break today and I came across a link to an editorial written by Michal Pollan for the New York Times in April of this year. Micheal Pollan wrote "The Omnivore's Dilemma" in my side bar and a couple of other books including "In Defense of Food" which I haven't yet had a chance to read.

This is from this editorial:
"For us to wait for legislation or technology to solve the problem of how we’re living our lives suggests we’re not really serious about changing — something our politicians cannot fail to notice. They will not move until we do. Indeed, to look to leaders and experts, to laws and money and grand schemes, to save us from our predicament represents precisely the sort of thinking — passive, delegated, dependent for solutions on specialists — that helped get us into this mess in the first place. It’s hard to believe that the same sort of thinking could now get us out of it. "

He asks the question "Why Bother?". Why, when the climate is drastically changing faster than we (as individuals) could correct it and when the oil is running out faster than we can even imagine, why bother with changing our lightbulbs or using fabric shopping bags, or biking to work, or growing a garden, or composting, or recycling? How can any of these things really make a difference? So what if I reduce, recycle and reuse. If the guy down the street doesn't, isn't he just going to consume the resources I don't? Maybe even faster, too? What's the point?Even though we are committed to this, I can't help but question this myself sometimes.

Michael Pollan does a great job of validating my thoughts for me in this editorial. We do it because maybe, just maybe, it might encourage someone else to do it. We do it because someone has to...why not start at home? We do it because when all else seems overwhelming, doing the little things really do make you feel better. We do it because we take pride in producing our own food and reducing our impact on the planet. We do it because it's important to us, to our future and to our survival (one day). And ultimately, even though it's a lot of work, we do it because we enjoy it.

In some ways, it reminds me of the ads on TV from "Woodsy the Owl" in the 70's. Remember those? Or the indian with the tear running down his face? Would you throw a piece of paper out the window of your car just because "it so small, it hardly matters"? What if everyone did that and our roadways are lined with trash and garbage? Just because 'everyone is doing it' doesn't make it right. We need to change the way we think. If I want to change others, I need to first make the change for myself.

Be the change you want to see in the world. ~ Mahatma Ghandi

And a few other posts by Michael Pollan at Amazon:

Last day of July

The pears are getting bigger!

So today is the last day of July. I'm not sure why that is signficant except that it means that we are only a couple of weeks away from the Crater Lake Century. I have bad news about that...we can't do it. First of all, who would milk Sassafras while we were away? It's too far to make it a one day trip...we'd have to stay over night. Secondly, I'm pretty sure that trying to climb from 4000' to 8000' and then ride 100 miles would likely kill us in our current state of conditioning. We just haven't been able to ride like we'd hoped. I find myself looking at cyclists longingly as they ride by me... I'm not giving up on cycling, it's just taken a backseat for the moment. Unfortunate too, considering how incredible the weather is these days. Anyway, I just wanted to come clean on that one. I'd very much like to put that ride on our plans for next year, though. It looks amazing and I think that with proper conditioning, it'll be a spectacular ride.

That said, back to our farm life. Yesterday I ordered a stainless milking pail, a milk thermometer and the enzymes necessary to make cheese from a dairy supply place. Milking Sass by myself is still going ok. Both last night and this morning, she got antsy after she finished her ration, but both times I was able to calm her down enough to finish milking. This morning, she shifted her foot and hit the bowl, sloshing a lot of the milk out onto the stand and the floor of the lean-to. I stopped milking to clean it up (lest it get sticky/draw ants) but I think that having a real pail would eliminate that issue. Tonight, I'm going to let H do the milking. I'll show him how I do the santizing procedures and he can do the actual milking. Getting this goat this soon was HIS idea, not mine. So he needs to take on more of the milking duties!!

Last night I found a recipe for 'quick' ice cream. We don't have an ice cream maker (we need to get one), so I'm going to do this by hand. Basically, I put some vanilla in a quart of milk. I added enough sweetener to make it taste right and I used both honey and real maple syrup. I wasn't sure that pure sugar would disolve correctly since I wasn't going to be heating the milk. I shook it in a ball jar until all the honey was mixed in and tonight I'll be freezing it. The plan is to freeze it in a bowl for awhile, take it out and mix it, freeze it some more, mix it, etc. This will continue until we get a worthwhile texture. I'll report back if it works or not! I also bought some live culture plain organic yogurt to try making yogurt. All I have to do is figure out a way to keep the mix warm for 8 - 10 hours and I haven't quite come up with the solution. Once I do, that'll be the next project.

This weekend, I have two major goals. The first is to fence the field for Sassafras. We don't have the money right now, but we can't wait any longer, either. I suggested to H that we may have to pull out a credit card, because we need to get this done ASAP. Secondly, I want to clean up the garage and begin collecting items for a yard/garage sale. We've got too much stuff and I'd like to get rid of a lot of it. Plus, the money we make could easily go towards paying off that fence, right? I'd like to set a goal of August 16th for the sale. Let's see if we can get it done.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Milking as an individual sport!



Yesterday, last minute, H had to fly to Chicago for work. He called me at work to tell me, so I didn't get to say goodbye in person. I left work a little eary so that I could get home in time to call in for my 5pm conference call. My plan was to attend the call and then get to milking. I would be my first attempt, completely alone.

It did not go well. First, I had to move the latch on the milking stand as I'd set it too far apart to latch correctly. Then I put Sass up there and gave her the ration bucket. While she was munching away, I started milking. So far, so good. Then she dumped her bucket. I picked it up, reinstalled it and went to start milking again. She wasn't having any of it. She dumped the bucket again and when I ignored it, she kicked the milk bowl, spilling it all over the place. At that point, I gave up and let her down. I cleaned up, put the equipment away and called it a failure. I did not reward her with her favorite grape leaves and apples! I did give her a branch off a downed limb from one of our plum trees. She ate that and then happily munched on the plum. When she spit out the pit, she reached her lips to me for more and accidently hit the electric fence! I felt so awful...she ran away and just stood there looking at me. I felt like it was my fault, so I went into her paddock and spent some time with her. She seemed no worse for the wear (and she'll likely not taste yellow wire again anytime soon!).

This morning I was mentally prepared to win this milking battle. I went in armed with more ration to keep her busy longer. Unfortunately, that didn't work because she didn't eat it all anyway! When she got annoyed with my milking, she dumped her bucket. I picked it up for her...once. When she did it a second time, I realized that she'd figured out that if she dumped it, I'd stop milking. Smart girl. So I left it on the ground. She was struggling to get away, so I wrapped my right arm around her middle and held her carefully while I kept milking with my left hand. Eventually, she realized that she wasn't going to win, and she stopped struggling and began chewing her cud. When that happened, I let go of her and milked with two hands. I kept praising her the whole time. I have no idea if praising a goat does anything or not, but I figured if nothing else, my voice probably sounded happy and upbeat to her. She was rewarded with lots of scratching, grape leaves and apples. I was rewarded with almost 2 quarts of milk!

Today I ordered the cultures to make feta. Tonight, I'm going to give yogurt a try...we'll see. I'm not conviced that I'll be able to do this, but it's worth a shot, right? Now that I think about it, the yogurt might have to wait until the weekend when I've got more time. Though...I think the goal for this weekend needs to be to install fencing. I know that Sass is lonely and she needs a friend!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Milking stand completed


Grapes - no idea what kind...

Plums - one of three types and the closest to being ripe.

Wow...what a pain and a pleasure all at once! The pain comes from not having exactly the right tools at my disposal when I need them. The pleasure comes from seeing the finished product and having it work beautifully! I cannot find the battery charger for the camera, but once I do, I'll take photos to post.

Yes, last night, I missed out on some much needed sleep because I was determined to get the milking stand done. I'll explain why, in a minute. Basically, I bought a new jigsaw (what a joy!) and was able to make the rest of the adjustments necessary to get this sucker together. I did a lot of sanding so that Sass (and her future family members) won't get injured on sharp corners or splinters. I didn't have exactly the right drill bits, but I made do. The milking stand was virtually complete prior to heading to bed. Then this morning, I took the front head pieced out to the pasture (where we'd used the base, yesterday) and attached it. Of course, it was drizzling on us this morning, so I was very pleased that H took the time to finish off the roof of the lean-to last night! Once the stand was assembled, we got Sass up on it and began milking her. Except for one incident when she'd knocked the feeding bin off and wanted it back up there, it went smoothly. It was MUCH easier on my back (and on H's) to have her up on that thing. I think it was less stressful for her, too.

I will say, we need to start drinking way more milk. It's starting to take over the fridge! I have been slowly collecting fat skimmed off the top (not as easy with goats milk as with cows milk) so that I can try my hand at making butter soon. I have a recommended cookbook on it's way with recipes and instructions for making cheese, yogurt and ice cream with goat's milk, so once that arrives, we should be in business!

So, I stayed up later than I wanted to finishing off the stand. I did this because I NEED to get back to biking to work. The problem is time. As it is, I get up at 6:20 to make coffee, feed the dogs and cat, get something to eat and then prep the stuff for milking (creating the udderwash/teet dip, setting up the sanitizing bath & prepping the container for the milk). Then I get H up and we go out and milk Sass. Then I come back in, filter the milk, clean up and sanitize everything so it's ready for the evening milking and pack myself a lunch. Then I go shower and get dressed for work. I'm lucky if I can get out of the house by 8:20. Now, lets think about making this work on days I ride. I can prep my lunch the night before. I don't have to shower and I can milk Sass in my biking clothes (but not shoes!) easy enough. I can also skip making coffee as I can get that at work. I will still need to do all the cleaning and milking prep work as that cannot be done the night before or it'll lose it's potency. With the milking stand, one person can milk Sassafras. This way, H can milk her while I get ready/have breakfast and then while he's getting ready/eating, I can filter and store the milk. Or, vise-versa, of course. This still means a very early rise though as the commute is 1:15 and I should be showered and at my desk by 8:30 am (I need to do better with my timing even when commuting by car!). And what happens when the chickens are laying? Who has time to collect eggs and feed/water them? I guess we will, huh?

We'll get better at this, eventually....right?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Building frenzy!

Unloading wood from the truck

Sunday was building day. After a lazy morning watching the finish of the Tour de France, H and I headed off to the big box store for some supplies. We purchase everything we needed (almost!) to build a sizable lean-to for Sass and to build a milking stand.

When we returned, we got started right away. H started work on the floor of the lean-to while I did some maintenance work in the garden. It needed watering and I had to do another mole Castor-oil treatment. I also did some weeding in the row gardening area. I have to admit - weeding is like peeling dead skin. Once you start, it's kind of hard to stop! It doesn't help that every time I pull a weed, there's another one just inches away begging to also be pulled...and so on and so on and so on.

Anyway, by the time I'd finished all that, H had a floor put together. We moved it to where we think the lean-to should go. Unfortunately, it's probably not the permanent location. Once the final fencing is in, we'll probably have to move it...and we don't think it's facing the correct way, either. It's good for now, though. So when we start on the walls, we realize that we forgot three long boards for the diagonal part across the top. H heads back to the store while I got started on the milking stand. I cut all the wood first. I made sure that I measured twice each time...just to make sure I got it right. Then I started putting it together. The plans I was following were really good and it was going smoothly. I managed to get the entire base built up with very little trouble. Then I built the frame for the part that holds the goat's head. When I started to cut out the curved opening for the goat's head, I had troubles. The 20-year old jigsaw wasn't happy with me. It died before I got one quarter of the way done! I tried a number of other ways of getting it cut, but it wasn't happening. And, because this step is critical, there was nothing else I could do until it was done. At that point, I gave up and put everything away. I'll have to stop and buy another jigsaw after work on Monday and finish it then.

We were able to get the floor and walls and half of the roof done on the lean-to. H will finish up the rest of it and then I'm going to build a stand for the hay. I'll finish up the milking stand tonight and hopefully have it ready by tomorrow morning's milking.

Lastly, we staked out where we want to put the permanent fence. We've decided to hire someone professional to install the perimeter fencing around the entire field. Then we'll install the cross-fencing dividers ourselves. Once that is complete (the perimeter) we are going to find Sass a friend. We are thinking a whether would be the best choice. Then we can 'borrow' someone else's buck to breed her when we are ready. We don't want a huge herd...4-5 goats tops! As it is, one goat is providing more milk that we can drink. I need to start making yogurt, ice cream, and cheese ASAP or we are going to be up to our eyeballs in milk before the week is out!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sassafras joins our family

Meet Sassafras. She is the first member of our goat herd. Sassy is a 7 year old doe who is very social and very gentle. She's a sweetheart! Her previous owners treated her very well and it shows. She's a welcome addition to our family.

We picked her up this morning. By this afternoon, we'd built a temporary electric fence around a corral for her. The fence isn't working properly, so we also have her staked as a backup. She seems reasonably happy. She bleats when she's left alone (except at night, thank goodness!). She's met both dogs and was willing to play with Maggie. When Maggie got too close, Sassy butted her and that freaked Maggie out a little. Sass and Charlie aren't 100% sure about each other yet. I think there are some 'dominance' issues going on there. We'll see how that pans out over time!

This evening, I milked a goat for the first time. We started out with me holding her (and her ration) while H tried and he wasn't having any luck. We switched postions and I gave it a go. After a few little adjustments, I was able to make it work!! We milked about a quart and a half from her and it was tasty! I'm straining it using a coffee filter and a funnel, but we have ordered the bigger milk funnel and filters from a supply place. I also need to get a stainless milking pail. Right now, I'm using a stainless bowl, which works, but is a bit precarious.

Tomorrow the plans are to build Sass some shelter and a milking stand.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Baby Chicks Arrive!

The chicks arrive!

Araucanas drinking

Chicks in the brooder

The first chicks learn to drink

Little leghorn chick - potentially named 'Bonny'

Today I'm working a 1pm to 10pm shift, so I was home when H got a call from the post office that our chicks had arrived. I drove down to pick them up and immediately brought them home. The brooder was ready and waiting, so I carefully moved them into it. They all started peeping contentedly once under the heat of the lamp.

H and I helped each one learn to drink. We also had to show a few of them were to find the food, but once they got the hang of it, they went to town. Particularly on the water! We already had to change the bedding because it was soaking wet in just a couple of hours. They are really cute...and all 15 made it to us safe and sound. Now we'll have to sell a few, but for now we are letting them get settled in. I didn't expect the araucanas to be so interesting looking, even as chicks. They are very pretty! The Rhode Island reds appear to enjoy sprinting around the brooder and the leghorns are the most active (so far).

We also introduced our dogs to them. Maggie (the super mutt) seemed just a little too interested. I held onto her collar the whole time...just in case. Charlie (the golden bassett mix) wasn't too sure about these little peeping creatures. He would only approach the brooder if I was sitting there, and even then would only peer into it from the safety of behind my shoulder. Our cat (Kitty) will NOT be meeting the chicks. He won't get exposure to them until they are at least as big as he is....seeing as how Kitty is so small, that probably won't be very long! ;-)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Busy, busy, busy!

I threw a mini internal temper tantrum last night. I say 'internal' because I pretty much kept it to myself, but I think I was just getting cranky. H is heavily researching the purchase of a goat. He's picked out one he wants to buy this weekend. We don't even have any fencing up yet! I threw the tantrum because I feel like we are 1) moving too fast (the kitchen isn't even fully unpacked yet!) and 2) that he's doing all the 'good' stuff while I'm relagated to cooking dinner and unpacking. I know that's not entirely true (I did do the whole garden), but I've been tired and frustrated with work, so it just all kind of hit me at once. I really hope that a very productive weekend will help me feel better.

There is just so much to do! Besides getting the goat and starting some fencing, I'd like to get the kitchen completely unpacked, get my closet unpacked and organized, get the garage cleaned up and organized and lastly, to get the laundry room in order. I may want to hold off on painting in there until after the summer weather passes us the interest of getting started on the outside of the house. Same holds true for the dinning room which also can wait. Oh, I'd also like to get the base board back up on the wall in the basement office so that we can move some furniture into that room. That'll free up some room to move in the rest of the basement so that the unpacking can continue. Lastly, I'd like to buy some local blueberries to do some freezing and some raspberries to try my hand at jam. Oh, and I'd like to get to the skeet range to start my instruction on shooting the shotgun. Think that's enough items for one weekend? living is time consuming! ;-)

The South Beach diet is going well. Tomorrow is my second week weigh in. I've been eating whole grains and fruits this week, but I've steered clear of all processed food and all sugar. I feel much better than I did last week, but I'm definitely still craving sugar. I should have done two weeks of phase 1, I just didn't think I could handle it. I hope that I show continued loss when I step on the scale in the morning. Biking to work will definitely help in this arena. Unfortunately, I had an early meeting at which I was presenting this morning, so I didn't want to bike in for fear of delays. My goal is to bike to work 2 days (both ways) next week and then 3 days the following week.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Country Truck

Last night, we bought a truck. Our plan is to sell our Prius, since they are fetching such amazing prices right now, and live on one car. We talked about buying either a trailer to use with the Matrix, or maybe buying a truck. Yesterday, I found a good truck option on Craigslist. It was actually barely more than buying a new trailer, and it has the extra benefit of being a nice 'emergency' vehicle should the Matrix need service or should H and I need to go separate ways for a business trip or something.

Basically, we'll use the Matrix for everything, bike to work, and only use the truck when we have something to haul. It's a 1987 Dodge Dakota - so it gets ok mileage (not being a very big truck). It's a V-6 and its in nice shape. It's also the type of car that H can easily do the work that'll be nice.

The Prius will be listed later this week. I need to take some photos and clean out the interior (dog slobber and fur are not conducive to a sale!), and then I'll list it. Since we still owe money on it, I'm not sure how that'll work, but we'll figure it out. H will hit the DMV later this week to get the truck title transferred into our name, so that'll be official.

We commuted to work by bike today. First time since the move! I didn't have a computer installed on my bike, so I don't know the exact distance, but we left the house at 6:40 and I was showered and at my desk by 8:25. Not bad! It was a pretty good commute and the weather was nice. I'm looking forward to the ride home even more. :-)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday recap and my commute...

This is not my actual car - but it looks just like this (or it did when new).

Well, it's all in. We moved all but a few random things (like a few cleaning supplies and the items we are selling out of the apartment) into the house. We made the main run with my brothers WELCOME help on Saturday, then after we dropped him off, H and I made one more run with my car. On Sunday, we made a third run with his car and then today, I'll grab the last of the stuff and do some vacuuming.

I managed to unpack all but one box of the kitchen stuff. Once I got a plan in place as to where things were going, it went well. In fact, I've got TONS of leftover space. I'm going to unpack the dinning room boxes from the old house (that have been in storage) where I used to have to keep a bunch of seldom used kitchen stuff...and then I'll be done. I did manage to cook our first real dinner in the new house last night, and that felt good. I had to make liberal use of the grill and the microwave because the stove was covered with stuff, but do what you have to!

So far, the only difficulty I've encountered is that I really can't find most of my clothes. I have a few boxes, but so many are missing. Right before I went to bed last night, I realized that I had no pants. I had to frantically search for a box that held pants so that I'd have something to wear to work today. Once I'd located pants (and shoes, belt and underwear)...I was ok. All my toiletries made it easily, so there was no mad search for deodorant this morning or anything! I can't wait to get home and get more organizing done this evening. I'm tired of spending so much time getting moved and organized and not nearly enough biking and gardening!
Speaking of biking, tomorrow I'll be biking to work for the first time from the new house. It's about an 18.5 - 19.5 mile ride depending on route. The plan is to bike the whole route as much as possible in the summer when the weather is good. Once the rain starts, I may cut it short every once in awhile and take the MAX for part of it. I didn't have the foresight (or energy) to bring in all my toiletries today when I had to drive, so I'll be lugging those in with me on the bike tomorrow. I'll be carrying tomorrow's lunch, my toiletries, my clothing, a towel, and other items (like shoes). Luckily, I can leave my laptop here tonight, so I can avoid that extra weight. I'm a bit nervous - more about where I shower than I am about the ride itself, but I'll get over it. I would have started today, but I'd already made an appointment to bring my car in for service at 7:30 am.

Today I had made an appointment to get the 60K service done on my Prius. We want to sell it, so there are a few things that need taking care of. The first is that it needs the service. This normally costs about $600! Luckily, half the items to be done are unnecessary on a hybrid, so I got it for half off. Then I need a new headlight. They put Xenon HID headlights on the Prius that I bought and OMG those bulbs are expensive! $400 each!!! I told the dealer to skip it and that we'd see if we could afford it next month. He made a call to Toyota and talked them into absorbing the cost on the headlight and all I have to pay for is the labor ($35). Wow! The guy apparently told Toyota that we were new to the area and that he wanted to secure us as customers. He just did! Plus, when I dropped it off, I was prepared to wait the 3 + hours... they said that was unnecessary and they gave me a brand new red Camry to drive. All I have to pay for is the gas. Unreal! I told the guy that they were doing all the right things to ensure that we'd be bringing our 2005 Matrix in for service with them in the near future. What a great dealer (and how often does one get to say that?)?!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Moving day!

The house as it looked when we bought it.

Tomorrow is moving day. I'm very excited to finally get into the house on a permanent basis, but I'm really, really not looking forward to actually moving our stuff. I took today off work to get the balance of the packing done. I've been doing a little each night this week, but time was running out quickly. I also didn't want to pack up stuff until I knew we wouldn't need it, so I had to think about every single item..."will I need this before I get it unpacked?" makes the process take way too long. Today, if it doesn't move on it's own, it gets packed!

H took his bike to the house already this morning. He's going to mow the lawn while I'm here packing. Then tomorrow, we pick up the truck at 8:30 am and my brother at 9 am. The goal is to get 98% of what we own (and everything big) to the house before we have to return the truck.

I also found out that we were mistaken about when the chicks will arrive. They are scheduled to ship on the 23rd for arrival on the 25th. Now that we have a date, it's easier because H can just plan to work from home that day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Memories of childhood

I was recently reading a discussion about what people remembered from the hard times from the oil shocks in the 70's. Being that I was a small child (only 11 by '79), I find that I don't remember much. What I do remember is worth thinking about though.

In the mid-seventies, we were living in a small town north of Boston. My mom found her 'dream' house, so we moved from a suburban neighborhood home where my parents had added an addition with their own two hands (I actually remember some of this), to a big OLD house on a farm in a different town. The house was over 200 years old, very, very big (20+ rooms), and was originally part of a 75 acre estate/farm. We purchased just the house and 6 acres immediately surrounding the house. The remaining 69 acres must have remained in some estate or trust fund as no one ever developed it while we were living there. There was a 'caretakers' house on the other property and an old man and his wife lived there. All I remember about them was that their mutt dog 'Sargent' (who we called 'dummy') got our dog Daisy pregnant with puppies. I saw it happening, and I came running to tell my mom that 'dummy' was attacking Daisy!

Anyway, when we lived there, my parents had to upgrade the heat system from a big old central furnace (with grates in the floor at the center of the house to allow the heat to rise) to a regular oil burner with baseboard units. They also had the tennis court resurfaced and fenced in so that we could use it. My mom promised my brother and I that we would get baby chicks for Easter as a 'bribe' to convince us to go to this new house willingly. She also had plans to get a burrow at some point. Funny thing is, we never got either the chickens or the burrow. I remember my mom making strawberry jam at one point because I recall my brother getting into trouble for moving one of the containers before it had set. Of course, he wasn't the reason none of it never set up, but we still blamed him for it! My mom also tilled a patch of land in one of the fields (it was dwarfed by the rest of the field!) and planted corn and other items. I remember her complaining that the crows ate her corn - often right out of the ground before it had sprouted. I also remember growing strawberries in the flower gardens - and the rabbits ate the berries before we could. When we lived in that house, my mom bought a moped. I think she rode it pretty often. Was that for fun, or to save gas?

I think back and wonder if any of this was done to be more 'sustainable' weather the bad times and to supplement our food. As kids, it was all just an adventure to us. Did my parents protect us from the worst of it? Or, did they not really feel it either?

I mean, would we have refinished the tennis court if money was tight? I remember my parents throwing big Christmas gala's. I remember when we bought our first microwave! My Dad did an awful lot of travel with work (he was gone when the roof partially collapsed and when the puppies got out and spread white paint all over the house). I remember having plenty of toys (most of them new) and I don't remember ever being hungry. How much did they sacrifice? Or did they?

And what really got me much of what they did is the same as what my H and I are doing now? I really see a LOT of parallels. I find it interesting.

Anyway...last night I packed another 7 or so boxes. Pretty much everything but our daily toiletries and our kitchen is packed up. The chicks did not arrive yesterday, so H is at the house again today in case they get here. He biked there today, and said it was a good ride. Took him a little over an hour, so once we get into shape, we should be able to do our commute in an hour. That's good..because that's better than I was expecting! I'll be meeting him there tonight and my goal is to get the last coat of paint up in the kitchen. I may prep the laundry room too...but more important may be to do some organizing and cleaning in preparation for moving in on Saturday. We are both taking Friday off. I'll probably spend that whole day packing, but if I can get it done quickly, I can spend a little time at the house then, too.

If we make it through this weekend AND manage to get everything done, I'll be amazed!

An Extra Set of Hands

This is the brooder that H put together. Chicks should arrive Thurs or Fri.

Day 2 on SBD - success! I also packed another 7 boxes last night while H ran to the house to water and to check for the chickens. Our account was charged for them yesterday, so they should be arriving any day now! Baby chicks!! I can't wait! I've wanted them since I was a small kid and mom used the promise of baby chicks to convince us that moving into the big old house away from my friends was a good thing. I guess we've come full circle. The things my mom was doing back then are now the things I'm doing with my husband.

Anyway, we are one small step closer to moving day. Speaking of which, I spoke to my brother this morning. He's a commercial pilot and will be in town for an overnight this weekend. Lucky him...he'll be here for moving day! We've already rented the truck, so there's no going back now. I'll be picking him up on Saturday morning and that will give him the chance to see our new house and us an extra set of hands to get the truck loaded!

Lastly, I saw some information from a salesman at a Toyota dealership about how they are hurting because they don't have enough of the cars people want. He mentioned something about the price of the Prius going through the roof. Based on research I did about a month or so ago, I was planning on asking for 18-19K for mine. I just looked them up now and I'm amazed. There aren't many - but if the sellers are actually getting the prices they have listed them for, then I need to up my asking price. If this trend continues, I may get more for this car than I paid for it! I've just made the appointment to get the 60K service done, so once that's taken care of, then I'll get it listed. The plan is to put most of what we make (over what we owe) towards paying off the Matrix. I think we may hold out about $2500 to buy an old pickup to have for emergencies, as well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

1 day and 5 boxes - done!

So yesterday was my first day on Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet (SDB). So far, so good. It always amazes me when I start eating better how much more in control I feel. Seeing as how I tend towards being a control freak in everyday life, you'd think I'd remember this and stay on track. Anyway, I did well and already feel less bloated today. Day 2 is underway!

Last night, after hitting the grocery store (where we added 25lbs of rice and a case of 1/2 pint wide mouth jars to our preps), I forced myself to start packing. I spent way too much time looking for the stupid packing tape, but once I found it, got to work. I packed up 5 big boxes of stuff. Tonight my goal is another 5 boxes (I have to be reasonable - tonight we head to the house for some more painting, too!). I really don't enjoy this...particularly since it's only been a few months since I last unpacked these boxes, but it has to be done. Ugh.

The good news is that the weather is forecast to be good on Saturday for our moving day.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Weekend work

In progress...

'Coop' side

'Run' side

We managed to get quite a bit done this weekend, which is nice.

On Saturday, I prepped the kitchen for painting. I also finished up the master bath including some freehand 'fixing' of many many places where the previous owners painted 'outside the lines' with a dark pink paint. Lovely. I also finished up spray painting the brass fixtures and hung them back up. They look pretty good! The faucets and the shower door frames are still brass, but we'll get those replaced eventually. The counter tops are also still pink, so replacing those will be pretty high on the priority list. Luckily, we have a spare bath we can use while this happens sometime in the future. H worked on the chicken coop all day on Saturday.

Saturday night, we met up with a few other LATOC people. It was both educational and entertaining to speak with a group of like-minded folk. It was really nice not to have to watch what we were saying and to be 100% truthful about why we are doing what we are doing. H and I were both really surprised that compared to most there, we were really ahead of the game. Hard to believe since we've only been planning this for a little less than a year! It made us feel good about how much we have accomplished. That's a feeling I'm going to revisit when the to do list gets overwhelming!

On Sunday, I was up early. I had some things to do in the apartment before we headed to the house. Once at the house, I painted the trim in the kitchen and on the bookshelf (part of it). While that was drying, I spent some time in the garden. I pulled a few weeds, did some watering, and built three more trellises. One of our cuke plants really needed it! I have enough piping and netting left to make one more smaller trellis for the extra pole beans I planted. I'll have to pick up the little corner pieces and the rebar on our next trip to HD. The lettuce is doing well, despite the heat. The temps are supposed to drop off tomorrow, so hopefully that'll suit our little leaves. I'm hoping to be able to harvest a few by next weekend for our first meal in the house (officially). We have one tomato that is about to move out of the 'green' zone..and the eggplant is blooming. I even see swiss chard popping up in a few spots. Can't wait until we get to harvest this stuff in earnest!

We took a break mid-day and went to the local feed store. Turns out, there are no more baby chicks available this year. We were so bummed! They had a shipment last week, but we weren't ready to buy yet and now there aren't any more. We did get a good education about feeding and watering options, so we'll be making those purchases next. We returned home, got online, and placed an order for chicks. We picked out 5 Rhode Island Reds, 5 Aruacanas, and 5 White Leghorns. The minimum order was 15 birds, so this covered it. We almost picked out some Buff Orpintons, too...but our coop just doesn't have that much room. I'd like to eventually do some meat birds, but I think we need to focus on these babies first. If all of these chicks make it to us healthy and strong, we'll have to sell a few. We really only have room for 12 right now. The next project is to build the nesting boxes and hang the perches before the coop is ready for habitation. We have time though as the new chicks will be in the garage until they are 8 weeks old anyway.

Sunday afternoon, I was able to get the first coat of paint up on the kitchen walls. It's looking much brighter and nicer already. I also discovered that I have some nice linen/cotten fabric leftover in a cute stripe pattern for curtains. I'm going to make some for the kitchen and the laundry room (the fabric works with both wall colors). I'm going to do it with big grommets on a simple modern rod - nothing too country looking for me! While I was painting, H finished putting the chicken wire on the coop/tractor. We then had to move it to where we wanted it. OMG, it was heavy! I was carrying the 'cage' side, while H had the coop side. He could barely lift it! Forearm Forklift to the rescue again! He was able to use it to support his end and we got the coop moved to where it will start out. Our plan is to move it around periodically to keep the grass growing and keep the chickens supplied with fresh grass and bugs.

I didn't have my camera with me yesterday, so I'll take pictures of the coop/tractor later this week to post. It really turned out nice! H says he's no carpenter, but he did a good job.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Those pesky 25 lbs

I believe that it is time to get ride of those extra pounds. At least, thats the goal - to get started. A couple of women on my cycling forum have been talking about the South Beach diet. I've read the main book and use many of the cookbooks. I abandoned the idea of doing it (at least, Phase 1) in the past because of all my cycling. Last week, it occurred to me that since I'm not riding much right now (except for my short commute), this would be a really good time to do this. I'm thinking that I'll work on one week of Phase 1 which should help me break this sugar habit, and then I'll move into Phase 2 when I start riding a much longer commute (19 miles a day?!).

So, to that end, I will start eating the South Beach way on Monday. The plan is to get to the grocery store on Sunday after working on the house so that I'll have some fresh veggies. H also mentioned wanting to eat better, so the timing is right. I will not be using any of the South Beach prepared foods that you see at the grocery store. That just goes totally against what I think the diet is about! For Phase 1, the focus will be on lean meats, fresh veggies and healthy fats. Phase 2, I introduce small amounts of whole grain and low GI fruits. I'm actually looking forward to this! (and I'll remind myself of this feeling when I'm craving Mexican food in three weeks!).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another before and after

After (but 'before' furniture!)


This is our master bed room. The before was from the listing and the after I just took yesterday. We obviously still don't have our furniture yet, but it's honey colored pine and I hope to find some bedding to coordinate with the blue that's not too expensive. Usually, when I redo a bed room, I buy the bedding and work from there, but this time I'm doing it backward. I'm not sure why except that we needed to choose the paint and we still hadn't decided on bedding. Eh...hopefully it'll work out!

This weekend, our plans are to paint the kitchen and the laundry room, finish the chicken coop, and get the compost pile/bin set up. We've been putting of this compost thing for WAY too long now.

Oh, and the next thing on our list (besides fixing the exterior siding) is to build a solar dehydrator. I'd also like to do a solar cooker while we are at it, but we'll see. If we can use all scrap materials, we can do both. If we have to buy new stuff, I might want to wait.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Our first harvest

Yum, berries from our land!

Of course, we had nothing to do with the planting or the caring...that was all the previous owners and mother nature, but still. Food from our land! How cool is that? H insists that these are raspberries - but I'm not so sure. They don't have the hollow center. These look more like red blackberries to me. Is there even any such thing?

Last night we got in the remainder of the seeds we wanted planted this year (summer). We'll plant more in early August for the fall, but for now, we should be done (outside of additional rows of corn this week). I don't feel too behind in some cases...our corn is just as tall as the larger commercial farms down the street. Everything else is doing well. We are getting cauliflower and lettuce hopefully they'll make it (it's a little hot for them, I think). The only thing I haven't seen hide nor hair of is the 'spinach' we planted. It's not really spinach, but a New Zealand variety of lettuce that tastes like spinach but handles heat better. We'll see. Oh, and none of the sunflowers I planted sprouted, either. Those were likely eaten by birds while they were still seeds, though.

We also did some weeding. I dug through the row garden and made some progress there. H tackled the raspberry bushes. He managed to really clear out all the undergrowth and added another tier of wire for the 'trellis'. Hopefully they'll flourish next year. The blackberries are coming along nicely. You can tell which plants are intentional and which are PNW 'weeds'. The intentional vines have no thorns! They look virtually identical other than that, though. We will probably hold off on trying to clear out any of that mess until we've harvested some of the berries. It's such a tangle right now and we don't want to overly disturb them.

I just got shipment of books I ordered from amazon (some were used, of course). Two are going to be helpful, I think. One is about preserving your harvest (for beginners!) and the other is about using things like cardboard, newspaper, eggs and such to improve your yields organically. I'm really excited to dig into that one! I also got two 'pleasure' reading books. Once I've had a chance to read them (in all our spare time! *sigh*)...I'll be sure to post reviews.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Long weekend = lots of work!

Our first tomatoes are growing nicely!

Our front yard - and proof of some of my work (mowing) this weekend.

Yep, I was over ambitious, once again. What a surprise!

Anyway, we did get the basement office painted, the master bedroom painted, the master bath painted & the chicken coop started. We also got most of the yard mowed. I worked for 4 hours, and only did about 3/4's of it. We definitely need to move 'getting goats' higher up on the priority list to cut down on all this time spent mowing!

The basement office required quite a bit of prep work and priming. Then it needed two coats of wall paint and three coats on the trim. We removed the closet except for the tallest shelf, and we are going to put an separate shelving unit in there (for now). Perhaps shelving the whole thing would be a good plan for the future. The use of this room is still up for debate. It'll either get foam/rubber flooring and become a workout room....or it'll get the Oriental rug that is currently in the dinning room (that I hate in there) and it'll become the office. The other room whose fate is in the balance is the tiny room upstairs that will either be an office or a tiny workout/craft room for me (in which case, the balance of the workout stuff will reside in the main part of the basement).

The master bedroom required that the trim be repainted (something we weren't planning on), so that set us back a bit. We also removed the closet 'fixin's' from this room as we don't need it for a closet (there is a big room-sized closet). We will be putting the armoire in the closet space and that will house a TV (that never gets used and I think we should sell...but whatever). This frees up space in the actual room for the bed and one dresser. The other dresser will go in the closet.

The master bath is *almost* done. We had to apply two coats of primer and paint the trim before getting started on the wall color. I'm also spray painting all the brass fixtures a brushed silver color. It's not our first choice, but it'll do until we can afford to buy something else. I'm all about using what's usable! I've painted the light fixtures already and I'll do the towel bars this week. The counter tops are still pink, so I don't know what we can do about that. I keep checking craigslist, so maybe we'll find something we can use...

H started on the chicken coop. It's looking pretty good! He's made a few mistakes, so we have a few more pieces we need to buy, but he's been able to use a lot of scrap wood in many places. The siding we used is the same wood we used to build the garden beds, so there was some overlap there. We hope to get that finished next weekend. I'm going to reserve a truck for the following weekend for our moving in date - and we want to get chickens as soon as possible after that.

The garden is moving a long. I didn't get more corn planted, but I hope to do that tonight. My body just can't take anymore painting for a few days, so I'm going to work in the garden. I need to give my new plantings a little TLC. I have two good sized tomatoes happening...and a few new Roma tomato 'babies'. I also need to get up the additional trellises as the beans are growing like gangbusters! Lastly, the row garden needs some weeding. I don't know how much physical labor I'll be capable of (I'm sore!), but we'll see how it goes.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Paint Recycling

When we bought all the paint to redo this house, I was not aware that we had any truly green options. While I can't say whether or not there are any recycled paint options that would hold up to the rainy PNW weather over the long-haul, interior recycled paint would certainly have been an option. There are companies (some even local) that recycle unused paint into colors and quantities that are useful to the homeowner. Unfortunately, we'd already purchased all our paint!

So I've been kind of randomly kicking myself for this little 'sustainable' error on my part. I can't exactly not use this paint as that would be the ultimate in wasteful. I can't return it as it's all custom colors. I had resigned myself to donating the unused paint to either a local drama club, habitat for humanity, or some other local operation that could at least put it to good use. I'm even considering researching the companies that recycle paint to see if they need donations.

What I am also finding is that I was actually really good at estimating quantites. For the three rooms where we changed the colors pretty drastically, we have very little paint left over. In one case, less than 1/4 inch in the can. My plan is to put this leftover paint into glass resealable jars for touch-up use over time. The cans I plan to dry out and either recycle them if our local place will take them...and if not, I'm going to make things from them. Planters for decorative plants (with a liner as paint is toxic to plants, too), storage bins for non-food items...etc. I heard of one idea where the cans were stacked in a pyramid (on their sides), painted or covered with contact paper, and then used as storage for office supplies or other non-food items. Sounds cool, huh?

Anyway, with all these ideas rattling around in my head, I feel a little better about using new paint to renovate our home.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Herbs planted!

This is the kitchen showing the oven that needs replacing - this is a lisitng photo... a 'before', if you will.

We had a productive evening last night. I got the herbs planted, I emptied the clothing boxes that I could find, and I removed the last of the wallpaper border. H primed all the dark green paint in the office. That's a big ole CHECK on the to-do list!

I don't know if we'll be heading over there tonight or not. I was exhausted this morning, so my brain wasn't functioning properly. I did not get anything prepped for dinner tonight before leaving for work, so I'm not sure how this will work out.

I'd like to get the balance of the garden planted. I still have a few of the seeds that I'd planned out on Tuesday to get into the ground. I'd also like to get another row of corn planted...and maybe some beans as well. That is a pretty big job though as it'll require some weeding/tilling of the area under the black plastic, so perhaps that's better left until the weekend.

I don't like having things so disorganized. I feel like I'm spending too much time spinning my wheels because things are EVERYWHERE. In fact, I think that one of my goals for this weekend will be to set up an area for 'yard sale' items. That way, I can feel like I'm getting organized as I open boxes and stuff. Ugh - its so overwhelming.

I think we need to decide which weekend we want to rent a truck and make the final move. I guess a lot of that is dependent on how much work we get done this weekend and next week. I know I posted this before, but I'm doing it again to make me feel better!

Goals for long weekend:

  1. paint office
  2. paint master bedroom
  3. prime master bath
  4. paint kitchen
  5. paint laundry room
  6. build chicken coop
  7. plant more corn
  8. build compost bin
  9. set up yard sale area/pile

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An evening of rest?

One of our trellised boxes - with our first tomato on that right plant!

Not quite, but sort of. Last night we opted to not make the journey out to the house for once, and we tried to get a few things done at the apartment. I did dishes, laundry and a tad bit of cleaning. We made a run to HD for some irrigation system parts (and to price counter tops...holy expensive, batman!).

After we'd gotten home, I sat down and went through the unplanted seeds. I still have some open spaces in our SFG, so I wanted to pick what I could plant. I opted for the Swiss Chard (which I'd already planned on), some parsnips, another zucchini variety, more onions, more garden beans and some herbs. I also planned out the herb boxes on the deck. We'll need to build an extra trellis for the extra beans, but other than that, I'll just be utilizing space that's sitting idle. I can't wait until we start harvesting!!

Tonight I need to open some boxes of clothing. We have lots of them and they can get in the way. Since the master closet is the only thing in this house that is BIGGER than the previous house, unpacking it should be super easy. All of my summer clothing has been packed away since February, and if I don't get it out soon, I'll miss the season for wearing it! Also on my agenda for the evening is to plant the seeds mentioned in the previous paragraph. I'd like to finish removing the wallpaper border in the laundry room and get started on priming in the office. I may be thinking overly ambitiously again...but I like to plan big sometimes.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Our field of boxes - SFG in the early stages...

Potato plants - just peeking up from the soil!

Another run to the house last night to drop off bikes and pick up a broom, proved exciting. We have sproutage! Most of the things in the garden are sprouting. We definitely can see tons of beans coming up. And last night it was obvious that the potatoes are growing (finally!).

While DH worked on unloading the car and opening a few more boxes, I went out and planted watermelon and sweet potatoes. I also checked in on all the growing stuff and took some photos. We definitely need to do some reading on caring for apple trees. The apples seem super crowded on the branches and most of them are hanging well below the leaves and not getting much sun. The apples that do get sun are showing a red tint. Those that don't are super green. I think this means that they need more sun! We'll have to investigate how to do that for them.

After the garden tasks, I went inside to do a little more work. We decided to change a few of the colors in the house so that we could use the oriental rug in the office instead of in the dinning room (where I really didn't like it). We also got all the wallpaper border down in the office and 90% of it down in the laundry room. We also discovered that the oven isn't working right. The door doesn't close all the way, so when you are cooking, it not only takes forever, but it heats up the kitchen something awful. So the oven is the first to go in the kitchen. We'll see how the other appliances function before finishing our priority list, but the fridge is likely next since it's so old it's not very efficient (and a fridge is a huge power drain). The dishwasher appears ok, so that might not need immediate replacement. Same goes for the stove which seems to be in ok shape. The microwave is totally fine. In fact, since it's not actually connected to the house, I'm really surprised (and pleased) that they left it for us! We also want to buy a chest freezer eventually.