May — Even MORE Garden Space

With the addition of the greenhouse and all the plants I could start from seed, suddenly the 20′ x 32′ garden surrounded by a six foot high fence just wasn’t big enough.  There are  plants that take up more than their fair share of the garden; things like pumpkins, potatoes, gourds, cucumbers and a variety of squash.  They don’t stay in neat little rows like peas, carrots and beans — they sprawl and climb and have a tendency to take over.  So…it only took a little bit of pleading for another garden before Chris was on board with getting out one of those power garden tools and tilling me a  20′ x 20′ space.  This one is only surrounded by chicken wire that we trenched into the ground to keep hungry bunnies from sneaking under the fence, and surrounded by some webbing sprayed with deer repellent to keep the deer from jumping over the fence.  So far — its working.

My potatoes are coming up, the gourds, pumpkins and some of the squash have been transplanted into the new garden, and I even planted some corn!  We’ll see how that works out this year.  I have a bit of space left — but it’s not quite time to transplant a few of my other plants.  I’ll stick to that rule of waiting until after Mother’s Day — and besides, it’s chilly this week.

The tiller is getting a workout.
Putting up the chicken wire was a bit of a project.
We trenched it into the ground so nothing can sneak underneath.
And added webbing around the top, scented with deer repellent — so far — it’s working!

January – Adding Space

I love to watch those tiny house shows on TV.  Our house isn’t really tiny; but it isn’t big either.  So, I’m always on the look-out for creative storage solutions to expand our space.

With the onslaught of Christmas baking and cooking for company, I realized how much I hated the cabinet where the spices were stored.  I had them on one of those cute little stepped-up shelves so I could see all of the containers, but invariably, whatever I needed was toward the back and retrieving it meant either pulling out everything in front of it, or if I was lazy, reaching in and delicately retrieving the one spice jar I needed — and knocking everything else out of the cabinet anyway.  So I was on a quest for a better storage system.

I found some organizers at Home Depot and convinced Chris it would be an easy project.  Several hours later, we had a masterpiece!  It’s so organized now, I can find what I want without dumping everything onto the floor and it looks so nice I sometimes leave the pantry door open just to admire our new-found space.

Now that the holidays are over and everything has been put away, I’m on a search to find a better way/place to store all that Christmas gift wrap. The basement can get damp, the attic is dreary, and the house — is full.  I’m still looking for a solution to that puzzle.

An “easy” project adding storage to our pantry door.
It’s awesome — I can find everything now.

September – Which way does the Wind Blow?

Chris has been going through new chains for his chain saw about once a week – that’s how many trees he’s been cutting down.  We are trying to reclaim the meadow and open up space where we want to start our orchard.  Cutting down the trees is just the beginning.  Then he slices them into fireplace-size logs.  Then he splits them with an axe.  He’s turning into a regular Paul Bunyon!  After all, we do have two fireplaces to feed, and the wood pile is growing.

So, Chris decided we need a woodshed for all the split wood he has been stacking up.  And I decided we need a woodshed because I saw a really cute one with a weather vane on top.

We went back to Pop’s Barns, where we got the run-in shed for the horses, and ordered a 4×8 Quaker model woodshed with a chicken weather vane on top.  That was the easy part.

Then the space needed to be readied for the woodshed.  The pile of split wood needed to be moved, the land needed to be cleared, tilled and leveled.  Then we waited – six impatient weeks for the shed to be delivered before we could stack the firewood into the appropriate compartments of the woodshed.

And now I know which way the wind is blowing.

The hillside before we cleared it, and with a wood pile that is calling out for a wood shed.
“Visitors” stroll through the yard and inspect the wood pile.
Clearing the weeds, briars, brambles and mess off the hill side.
Finally cleared and ready for the wood shed.
And here it comes up the driveway.
Chris inspects as it gets slid in to place.
Now he has to move ALL of this wood into the shed.
The wood shed, sitting in place and full of wood.
The wind is blowing out of the east — and now we have a Rooster on the farm!

September – Hey, Hey… Hay!

The truck is beginning to pay for itself already!  Chris picked up a load of hay and hauled it home in the truck.  Yes, that brand new truck will certain make a dent in those hay delivery charges!  With stray strands of hay flying around behind, we lumbered over hill and dale of back country roads.  It was like lugging a Christmas tree home on the roof of the car, only to see all the needles flying off.  I wondered how much of the bales would remain; for the most part they were intact.

 It’s a multi-step process getting the hay unloaded.  The bales go from the truck bed to the little green cart attached to the back of the John Deere, and then hauled up the hill behind our house where they are unloaded into the barn.  Arianna enjoyed the trek back and forth – especially when she got to sprawl out in the empty cart on the return trips down the hill.

 Considering that the barn only holds about 2 to 3 weeks’ worth of hay, I guess the delivery truck will be getting a work out.  The horses are happy with the fresh hay, Arianna is happy with the tractor rides and the “farmer” is happy in his pick-up truck.  I guess it’s a good day on No Rhyme or Reason Farm.

A truck load of hay — or what’s left of it, after some blew away on the drive to our house
Transferring to the next ride — the Deere to carry it up the hill.
Of course, there’s a passenger to help haul the hay.
And she looks like a movie star — with the car to herself for the return trip to the truck for the next load of hay.

September – And the Walls came Tumbling Down

After all our renovations, the last thing we want is for walls to come tumbling down.  But, there was one wall that was really annoying me.  It was a cinder block wall on the southeast corner of the spring house ruins.  It wasn’t so bad during the summer, covered in vines and weeds; but once we started clearing the meadow and cutting/shredding more of the ubiquitous brambles and briars – the wall started to stick out like a sore thumb.

 I’d been eyeing that wall since we first looked at this house.  The cinder blocks were a blot on the landscape and an impediment to the natural flow of the spring.  Chris took a sledge hammer to it.  I’d like to say it tumbled into individual cinder blocks with one hard hit.  That’s not exactly how it happened.  Over the course of a couple of days, armed with a metal wedge and the sledge, he chipped away, chipped away, chipped away.  Good practice if he ever needs to chip his way out of jail!  Some cinder blocks broke into pieces, others stayed whole.  We used the broken pieces for fill; the whole ones are up in the “bone yard” where we keep odds and ends of things we’ve found on the property (old metal fence posts, old bricks, etc.), just in case we ever need a cinder block or two.

 Once the cinder blocks were out of the way, we found old pieces of galvanized metal that may have been the roof of the spring house at one time.  That was another project to dig them out.  With the cinder block wall and the galvanized metal gone, the spring now flows more directly into the stream rather than making a boggy mess.  Now we’re left with the next step of the project — hauling out all the rocks that have collapsed into the inside of the spring house.  We’ll pile them up to the side and wait for that day when we can rebuild the spring house to its original beauty.  I found a picture of what I want it to look like…someday.

The spring house ruins — with the cement block wall. What’s it there for anyway?
We started knocking it down — at least it’s progress.
A pile of cement blocks to be sent to the “bone yard” in case we ever need cement blocks.
How I want the spring house to look some day… when I win the lottery.

August – Organization

I love organization.  Everything should be in its place.

The one place we had not organized was the basement.  The basement is damp and dark and has spiders and things.  It’s not a place I’m apt to “hang out” in order to spend time organizing.

Holiday decorations, luggage, and other stuff we didn’t need in the house were deposited there when we moved in last October.  While most things were in storage bins, some things were still in cardboard moving boxes.  We put 2” x 4” boards on the floor to keep the boxes dry – but it was an unorganized mess.  Ugh.

With the rain we’ve had, everything kept getting damp.  We didn’t realize how damp until two weeks ago when we opened the basement to retrieve our luggage.  It had grown mold.  It got hosed off, scrubbed with soap and disinfected with sunshine – and it was still disgusting, so we bought new luggage that will now be stored in the attic.

But, we still had a moldy basement.  We bought shelf brackets, hardware and a dehumidifier and spent two days in the dark, dingy, damp dungeon – cleaning out cobwebs, building shelves and throwing out moldy stuff.  The dehumidifier tank holds 90 pints of water.  Chris empties it twice a day.  The basement floor is the driest it’s been since we found this place.  It must be sucking up water from the springhouse because it just keeps filling up, and we keep dumping it down the drain.

Finally, it feels cool and dry, the shelves are in place and it’s organized!  But I still don’t like the spiders.

From piled up stuff,
And things shoved on shelves —
To this organized shelf of extra paint,
And shelves of canned goods and kitchen supplies;
And neat shelves of holiday decorations! It’s organized.


August – Meet Riley

About this time last year, we had to have our cat put to sleep.  She was old, wasn’t managing the move from our previous home to our interim stop at the Homewood Suites, and wasn’t going to live long enough to make it to the farm.  So with a heavy heart – I took her to the vet.  My daughter and granddaughter went with me for moral support.

The whole event, though sad, was done in a very compassionate way.  We stayed with Shadow while they gave her the shot and she peacefully passed away.  Arianna wanted to stay with Shadow for the process, but at five years old, I wasn’t sure what she really understood – and what she didn’t.  Once Shadow was “asleep,” Arianna announced it was time to go – so we did.

Now, a year later, they have a cat that needs a barn – and we have a barn that needs a cat.  Before bringing Riley to the farm, she needed to have her shots up-dated, and that has brought about a barrage of questions from the now six-year old Arianna.

Upon hearing that Riley was going to need shots, she’s been full of angst about how, exactly, does the vet know the difference between an “alive” shot and a “dead” shot, because she wouldn’t want Riley to go in for the shots to keep her alive, only to end up with the wrong shot.  She apparently has given it considerable thought because we had a lengthy conversation about the alternative ways they could keep the shots separate.  I suggested she ask the vet when they took Riley for her “well shots,” and she did.  Apparently the “dead” shots are under lock and key, the others are in the refrigerator.  That’s all she needed to know.

Now Riley has taken up residence on the farm.  Chris built “cat stairs” so she can get from the storage side of the barn where her bowl of food is — to the outside, by way of the run-in shed side of the barn and she’s on the prowl to keep the mice away.  She’s happy, we’re happy – and Arianna is happy that Riley only got the “alive” shot.

Riley in the barn where she sleeps on top of the hay.
Riley perched on top of a fence post under the roof of the barn, trying to keep out of the rain while surveying the pasture.

June – Mud Sales

A friend told me about Mud Sales.  My first thought was – no thanks, we have plenty of our own.  But these auctions, held rain or shine, are sometimes muddy and are prevalent throughout the Lancaster County area in the spring and fall.

We’ve been talking about going for months now, but with the rainy weather – the Mud Sales have been especially muddy – and we’ve been busy with our own muddy mess.  But we finally made it to one.  The Honeybrook Mud Sale was just a holler’ up the road.

Despite getting there early, we had to park a distance away and shuttle in on a school bus.  The place was teeming with activity and it took a while to get our bearings.  We wandered from buildings to tents to fields checking out the auctions – plants & shrubs, old tools & new; antiques, sheds & picnic benches, crafts and box lots of household items.  But the best building had food!  And lots of it – doughnuts and soft pretzels and soups and sandwiches and pizza and barbecue and ice cream and milkshakes and…more than I could eat in a day, though I gave it a good try.

We registered for our auction number “just in case” and settled in to watch.  I had to get reacquainted with the process – it’s been years since I’ve been to a farm auction, and the lingo takes some getting used to.  I’m partial to quilts – it’s where I wanted to spend my time.  Chris was more into the tools, farm implements and sheds.  The food building was conveniently located between the two.  We’d watch his auction for a while, stop for a snack and then go to the quilt auction, then stop for a snack and go back to the farm implements for a while – and so went the day.

The sales provide an interesting blend of stuff to buy and an out-of-the ordinary blend of people.  The Amish arrive by buggy and tether their horses on one side of the parking lot; pick-up trucks, motorcycles and minivans fill the other side.  Two very different worlds; one big Mud Sale.

Somehow, we managed not to buy anything (except for everything in the food building), but now we’re full of buyers’ remorse – the kind where we sorry we didn’t buy anything.  So, next week, we’ll be back at another Mud Sale!


The Amish arrive by carriage.
And tether their horses on one side.
The other side is full of mini-vans, trucks and motorcylces.
But it’s all one big happy mud sale.
With beautiful quilts.
Especially this one.
And odd lots of stuff.
And old farm equipment.
And a chicken nesting box.
And even buggies for sale, if you’re in need of one.

November – The Master “Suite”

The upstairs of this house was a mess.  The carpet was filthy. Walking across it left footprints in the dirt that had rained down from the attic. The bathroom was disgusting.  The toilet had a rag stuffed in it.  The tub was falling off the wall.  The linoleum was peeling.  It wasn’t very pleasant.

As with everything else, it just took a plan.  We knocked down the wall between the two small rooms and turned it into one gracious space.  It was definitely one of the better decisions we made.  The Master Bedroom is spacious and full of light with two windows facing the front yard and two windows facing the back.  Out the front window, we watch the activity at the bird-feeder (we have Nuthatches, Cardinals, Wrens, Blue Jays, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, and squirrels who apparently think they are birds).  Out the back window we watch the deer who graze their way through the backyard at dusk every evening.  And I can use the tiny “back-stairs” to go directly from the Master Bedroom to the Kitchen, should I have a midnight snack attack — how convenient.

We reconfigured a closet that was in the bathroom and opened it up in the bedroom instead.  It wasn’t an easy task for John and his crew.  The wall was two feet thick and solid rock; it took some muscle to knock it down.  In the bathroom we converted the nasty tub into a walk-in shower, added a floor to ceiling cabinet for a linen closet and a bathroom vanity with lots of drawer space!

And then here was the tiny room at the other end of the hall.  It’s wasn’t really big enough for a bedroom.  It was a little too big for a closet (though visions of a wonderful room-sized closet did cross my mind).  It became the perfect spot for a quiet retreat and a home office.  The ceiling is low in this room.  It’s only 80″ tall (that’s 6’8″).  We bought bookcases that are 78″ tall. I held my breath as we moved them in to place, I wasn’t sure they would fit. But they did, just barely.  In fact, they look like “built-ins,” and they are the perfect place to display tchotchkes from our various trips.  It looks like it was meant to be just like this.  Not just the upstairs, but the whole house.  It was meant to be our home.

The "Master" Bedroom was two small separate rooms.  We pulled down the wall.
The “Master” Bedroom was two small separate rooms. We pulled down the wall.
A mess of a master bedroom.
A mess of a master bedroom.
The Master - spacious and clean!
The Master – spacious and clean!
We added a closet!
We added a closet!
A really disgusting bathroom.
A really disgusting bathroom.
The Master Bath - no comparison to what it looked like before!
The Master Bath – no comparison to what it looked like before!
Our walk-in shower.
Our walk-in shower.
A very cozy office.
A very cozy office.
Not much room, but it's functional - and a nice retreat.
Not much room, but it’s functional – and a nice retreat.
A great view out the office window to watch the deer.
A great view out the office window to watch the deer.
A dingy hallway.
A dingy hallway.
The upstairs hall.
Not so dingy now.