Thursday, March 31, 2011

Goats are for hugging

Some days are just regular and boring and normal.  Not much happens and telling a story about it is hard.  Well never fear, dear readers, because today was not one of those.  Today was awesome country-time fun in the dirt and the sun!

We started the morning with a simple challenge: build a zero-dollar coop for the chickens we don't have yet ("I'm not gonna spend $800 on supplies to build some elaborate thing just so we can save $3 a week on eggs" -Tommy).  With this pile of construction debris still rotting away in the middle of our pole barn...
and this lonely corner right over here...
Tommy is going to create something totally usable for my most favorite price: free ninety-free.  But it's not done yet, so you'll just have to wait to see the finished product, but I gotta tell you- it's ingenious.

Then, halfway through the afternoon we got a call: our baby goat who we had never met had been born a week ago and he was ready for visitors and did we have time to go and see him sometime soon and Ohmygoshareyoukiddingme?  Of course we have time!  How about we come over this very second?!?!?  Okay fine, the very second our big girls get home from school?!?!?

Oh yes, I know.  I know!  He is just the most precious tiny nugget of goatiness you have ever seen in all of your days on this earth, isn't he?  His name is Lucky and he is a perfect little Toggenburg buck.

His mama was there too, just as sweet as can be.  He pranced around and nursed and let everyone carry him around like he was a glorified plush toy, and oh, oh, oh we are all...just...smitten.

And not only do our sweet friends have goats, they also have a mixed flock of 13 free-range chickens...
who were cute and docile and quite happy to exit the scene when our boy arrived wielding his super-secret spy binoculars.

They gathered fresh eggs for us in this impossibly cute basket...

..and packed them up all safe and sound for us to bring home and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I said those loathesome words...

Well, I know you want me to bore you with details of my daughters' birthdays (insider tip: try to have all your babies on the same day so you can throw combo birthday parties.  So handy.) but you're just going to have to be patient because today is a day to talk about what this blog is supposed to be about: this house and un-scary-fying it. 

For reasons that I'm sure were good but which I can't seem to recall (probably something to do with children and snow.  Who knows), back in the fall we stopped laying the new floor just short of the edge of the kitchen door and have since just dealt with a very Jekyll/Hyde motif in our entryway.
standing at the front door

looking toward the front door

But we are finally going to have our first over-night house guests in just a little over a month and so I said the horrible thing that I haven't said in a while which Tommy loathes with his whole heart and soul: "So...what are we going to *DO* today?"

And with only minor injuries and a little bit of hollering, this was my answer!

Clearly, there is still work to be done (tomorrow, by golly!), but it's a good, good start.  As I refuse to leave you with the sight of an unfinished project burning holes into your untainted retinas, however, I will also share this, which I have so far forgotten to do: the wall on the second-half of the kitchen that used to look like this..
But now looks like this...

And it even has a fancy floating-start-that-has-a-special-name-which-I-didn't-bother-to-learn...
I know!  He's so talented!

But the very best news of all is that two tiny seeds that were just planted on Saturday have already, as of Tuesday, sprouted their adorable little sprouty heads out of the dirt.
Just three days from seed to seedling... and apparently I still haven't killed them yet!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sometimes life is messy.

Oh, crazy house.  Crazy, crazy house.  There are toys all over you and dirt where no good house deserves.  Those counters.  Those once-beautiful counters...they're just...such a complete disaster, all covered in papers and vials, unopened mail and jars of someone-please-tell-me-what-the-heck-is-going-on-here.  And the muddy shoes left by your doors threaten unwary passersby with their encrusted soles and their trippy-trippiness. 

But a good life is often messy.  Neat and tidy can be a destination, but barely controlled chaos is the journey.
puzzles in the play room
Those toys strewn all about belong to the boy who is playing instead of watching.  The boy who is learning to pick up his own messes, but in the meantime is busy memorizing the shapes of the states. It was his idea.

indoor planting seed trays
No, you're dining room table deserves dirt like this, real dirt, as in dirt, smeared all over it like so, but these are the trays that will coddle the seeds that will become the plants that will give us delicious vegetables and herbs all summer long.  Using the table to make food for the table.  It's not pretty, but it feels so right.

soil ph test kit
And all the stuff and the papers and jars mean more digging and learning and fixing.  Doing instead of sitting.  Finding out that there is so much more that we didn't even know that we don't know, but feeling like we can do it anyway.

new balance trail running shoes
And those shoes, looking worse for the wear, keep these feet clean and dry, feet that take me to beautiful places to do very ordinary things- amazing, fulfilling, mud-covered ordinary things that make puppies leap and children cheer.

Yes, I'll take this messy life, with its adventures and its excitement.  Bring on the mud and the rain, the experiments and the what-if-we-dos.  Because now there's a tent in my den where a coffee table ought to be, and I love it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A dragon, some sushi, and not-dead-yet seeds

Boy howdy...if you are not sick of hearing about our stupid fence yet, then you have not been reading this blog.  Lord knows I am sick of talking about our stupid fence.  But behold, ye weary readers: the fence is going up!
installing a goat fence

Why she is on the wrong side of it, I do not know.  (Those of you with children will agree that sometimes it's best not to ask too many questions.  As long as they're not dying (or some other such emergency), I try to just go about my business.)  But I know that she knows that we're a step closer to that goat of hers.  I think she was more excited than the dogs!

And my darling Katy, who has not been feeling very well these days, even humored me with a "modified thinker" pose whilst she sat on her "portable stump chair".  We're quite resourceful these days, aren't we?
But even more exciting than the fence (to me.  Shhhhhh, don't tell Tommy) is that my seed order arrived today.  And as of right now, I still haven't killed them.  Huzzah!

And totally unrelated to our outdoor adventures, but so cute I couldn't help but share, is this adorable dragon (or "dray-gon" as Katy says, because she is starting to talk like a Michigander.  True story.) named Cheese.  
Katy sculpted, glazed and fired him over a period of a couple weeks in her art class.  Herself.  In fourth grade!  When I was in fourth grade, I carved a heart from a bar of soap.  Their school is so awesome.

It occurred to me today (if you'll bear with another tangent) that your vision of our life might be us tromping through the woods for 8 hours a day and talking to a stuffed donkey the other 16.  That, of course, is ridiculous.  The Donkey discussions last 12 hours, max.  And between that all sorts of regular life stuff also goes on too, but most of it is so...regular- except for THIS:
sushi restaurant portage kalamazoo michigan
And to answer your question, no, that sushi did not taste as good as it tasted better.  So much better that my mouth is watering just looking at this picture!  Oh my gosh.  Yummers.  Now see, I have eaten more my share of sushi  and spent the better part of many people's salaries on overpriced fish in my day (9 years in southern California has that affect on a person), so you can believe me when I say that Sakura Sushi in Portage is worth every minute and every cent.  And just like that, like the "you'll never find good Mexican food" warnings I received before we got here, it turns out you can get good sushi in Michigan.  Double huzzah!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We'll bring the beer.

You've probably heard it before- you know, the thing about people in the midwest being "so nice".  I know...what the heck does that even mean?  Like, you can take a bunch of people connected only by their geographical location and label them all as "nice"?  And who decides what "nice" is?  And honestly, "nice" is a lame word anyway.  It doesn't really tell you anything about anything.  When we moved here I had heard all these things, just like you have, but still had no expectations whatsoever.  I had, after all, met plenty of "nice" people all over the place in my life.

What I came to know in a very short time is that "nice" here in beautiful southwest Michigan doesn't mean saying only sweet things in a sugary tone, or nodding at one another with a serene smile.  Thank God.  'Cause if you know me you know I wouldn't fit in very well in a "nice" place like that.  On the contrary, there's a lot of good-natured teasing, and unexpected goof-balling.  As in, there is rarely a serious moment 'round these parts at all (hallelujah!).  Instead, what the "nice" people of Michigan are is amazingly, unabashedly, literally-give-you-their-coat-and-let-you-eat-their-last-piece-of-bread generous and tell-you-where-to-go-and-who-to-talk-to-and how-to-do-it-if-you-feel-like-doing-it-yourself-and-even-offer-to-come-and-do-it-for-you helpful.  They are the kind of nice that makes your life easier.  The kind of nice that lets you breathe a sigh of relief.  The kind of nice that makes me want to be the kind of nice that makes your life easier, too.
Remember Jesus in the polyester shorts?  The day we were unpacking our belongings from our pods into our unusable house, he suddenly appeared- unloading boxes, wheeling the dolly, jogging back to his house to retrieve his hand cart.  It was the hottest week of the entire summer, he is at least 65 years old, and he had just met us the day before, yet there he was, just doing it.  Of his own accord, and with a smile.  There was also the down-the-road neighbor who lent us his van.  Or our around-the-corner neighbor who took us on an impromptu hay-ride in the fall followed by a mini horseback-riding lesson for our kids.  People lending us things and giving us things and wondering when we're going to demolish insert-ridiculous-part-of-house-here so that they can come and help, because they know how hard it is with the kids underfoot.  "You've got the house, we'll bring the beer."

Have you ever lived somewhere that complete strangers will treat you like family?  The awesome family you have or the family you wish your family was like?  If you have, and you want that again, come to Michigan.  On the other hand, if you haven't and you can't believe that what I'm saying is true: come to Michigan.  You get the house.  We'll bring the beer.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Victory is a sprouting garlic clove.

It has been an incredibly long, fun, heart wrenching, sunny, hilarious, delicious, stormy weekend complete with made-from-scratch pizza and sisters learning to navigate elation and disappointment.  But it's hard to take a picture of those things (and also I am exhausted), so instead, we'll talk about the quite enormous 93 year old tree that Tommy felled all by himself because it was dead and he was ( it turns out unnecessarily) afraid it would topple in a bad summer storm.  

It was super impressive and more than a little scary when it crashed to the ground.  I'm happy to report that my husband was not crushed even a little by this gigantic trunk.

He also installed the first two corner posts of our soon-to-be-second-fence-for-goats!  Yes, that's the technical term.
He claims that by the end of this week not only will the actual fence be completed, he will also have begun to build his very own, personal, custom, lovable, amazing, perfect, awesome, to-die-for outdoor wood-fired pizza oven.  And yes, that's also the technical term.  And no, I don't think it's gonna happen.  But don't tell him that, or you're gonna have to hear all about it.  Again.  (p.s. But I still love you, honey!)

And look at this gorgeous sunny day, with our beautifully behaved dogs, sitting so nicely whilst I photograph them!  Send applications for Dwija's Doggy Obedience school to: P.O. Box......

Oh, and check this out: growing stuff.  Stuff!  That's growing!
Back in the fall, as per the instructions in one of the gardening books that I bought used off of Amazon for the same price as a large pack of gum, we shoved some garlic cloves into the ground and then forgot about them.  Well by golly, they are growing!  6 of them!  As if we really knew what the heck we were doing!  Victory.

Which brings me to our next project: the clearing of the space that will soon be our 10'x10' vegetable garden. 
I know, I know...just a random picture of a piece of ground.  But soon, it will be a piece of ground that yields real food for our family (providing that I don't kill it all, which I have been known to do).  With any luck and a whole lot of hard work, after pictures will follow shortly.

Hopefully I will soon be telling you all about how the fence is complete and our new animals have been brought home and mulch and compost have been tilled into the already-fertile soil and when I say those things you can imagine me making this face:

Happy spring everyone!

Friday, March 18, 2011

10 things I never thought I'd say

I've said a lot of things in the last eight months that I never imagined I would say.  The following is just a small sampling of words that have actually been said by me in reference to a real thing going on or being planned.  Yes, for real...

"If we put the chickens over there, then what are they gonna use as a dust bath?"

"Okay, I'm on my way to a Garden Club meeting..."

"Well then, let's find out what the going rate for three cords of seasoned spalted maple is."

"Yes, there totally is a difference between poison sumac and just sumac.  Look it up!"

"I guess a Nubian cross would be okay, but I was really imagining a smaller goat."

"Look- do we really need electricity in every room?"

"And if it gets too cold we could put the chicks in with the seedlings next to the washing machine!"

"It's going to be almost 60 degrees today.  You don't even need a jacket."

Fine, sled down the middle of the street.  Just please....if a car comes, try to scooch out of the way.

And just today, the crowning jewel of all ridiculous country-fied things I've said:

"Hey look!  My Seed Savers Exchange membership card is finally here!"
(this is how you know you're finally

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Eating dirt and loving a shovel

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

There has been more than one (or two or 847) time on this journey that it has been difficult to carry out our calling to be joyful in all things.  When you feel helpless, it's hard to remember that you'll look back on those times of trouble and thank God for helping you when you needed it most.  When the beehives and the snakes and the no electricity and the frog day-spa are surrounding you, the most a person can muster sometimes is a feeble "Lord, make this go away..."

But is not one of those days.  No friends, today is a day when joy is positively abundant.  Prayer is simple!  Thanks rolls easily off our tongues!
Thank you Lord for the sun and the birds doing their springtime waltz!
For a gentle breeze.
For silly dogs and crazy kids.  
 For a willing husband and kind friends. 
Thank you for this very moment...and this one...and this one too!
And little baby Cecilia thanks you for her first ever day of walking outside
and eating dirt
and learning to love a shovel.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Order NOW while supplies last!

Hey folks- are you tired of knowing what the heck is going on?  Do you wish things were just a little more confusing?  Is having a clean house getting on your nerves?  If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, have I got the product for you!  It's the Borobia Property 3000: providing endless hours of "what-the-heck-are-we-supposed-to-do-now?" and countless moments of "oh-sh#t.  That canNOT be good".  From the new fence that has to be installed to the chicken coop that "someone" needs to build to the garden that doesn't-exist-yet-but-needs-to-hurry-up-and-be-created-because-the-early-seeds-go-in-the-first-week-of-April, you'll never get a moment's peace while the sun is up.

But wait, there's more!  Call now and we'll include not one, not two, but THREE herding dogs along with their very own gopher, who will make a maze of tunnels under your grass during the winter so that your precious pups can have all sorts of fun trying to dig him up once the ground thaws!

"Wow, Dwija" you say "that's a pretty amazing deal".  You bet it is, but believe it or not, there's still more!  We want our customers to be so satisfied that instead of addressing the projects mentioned above, we are going to spend two days and a trip to both Meijer and Home Depot just to install a single tire swing.  For the children who are waiting for their goats!  The goats who do not have a fence!
The truth is that even though this place is a total loony-bin, we are all beyond excited to get this springtime farm-havin' show on the road.  Yesterday we placed our seed order through The Seed Savers Exchange- bell peppers, onions, peas, beans, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini and more and more and more that all grow brilliantly in this crazy place of black, well-draining soil.  My second daughter, who is not usually much of a reader, has been absolutely engrossed in Barnyard in your Backyard , giving me tips and tricks for care and training of the domestic goat.  Or something like that.  Our son, who is 3 and can be a bit of a handful, is really enjoying the yard and the woods now that it's not totally covered in snow anymore, and I (confession time) am really enjoying kicking him out there.  And did I mention that the sun doesn't start setting until 8 p.m.  Eight o'clock at night and it is still light out!  See ya later, winter!  It's been real, but I think I could use a good eight months without another visit.  Can that be arranged?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wallpapering your closet doors isn't fancy.

The reason I haven't written in so many days is that WE HAVE FINISHED THE ENTIRE HOUSE!


No, not really.  I wish there was some awesome reason, but sometimes you gotta live the life you're writing about and it's not always that interesting to your audience.  Oh, and yesterday was Ash Wednesday and my blood sugar was so low that I could only just barely function, what to speak of spin a yarn for all you fine folk.  But I'm back today to say that the baseboards and chair rail are finally going in the kitchen.  Woo hoo!  Now, I know what you're thinking right now: "In HGTV land, that would have been done on the same day as the rest of your dang kitchen, you lazy bums!" but real life is, deplorably, unlike "reality" television and the fact is that sometimes there are acoustic ceiling tiles in the way of your peace and happiness.  What I mean is no chair rail until vertical trim.  No base boards until vertical trim.  No vertical trim until crown molding.  No crown molding until current ridiculous, time-warp ceiling is replaced.  No time-warp ceiling replacement until we happen upon a huge pile of cash (because, you'll recall, we are refusing to go into debt for a house that cost $27K) and can pay someone else to do that part because I would like my husband to avoid having a stress-induced stroke before the age of 40.

"So that means you got all that done?!?!?"  Hah!  No way!  No, as usual, I got impatient.  And totally sick of looking at a pile of trim in our living room and keeping the baby from crawling on it and keeping the boy from using them as so many streets for his Hot Wheels and so decided that we (Tommy) could just guess where the crown molding will eventually end up and put up the dang baseboards already.  And it is looking so good already!  Still not done, so no photo yet, but you can see the trim-less pics here and then wait in happy anticipation for the 'reveal'.

But as I don't want to leave you with no photo of happy and/or ridiculous, I'll share with you some pictures of the babies' sleeping room, the closet of which had been wallpapered right along with the rest of the room way back when those silly folk who nail barbed wire to trees still lived here:

The day we arrived.  Note the lack of baseboards, the lovely light fixture and the lace curtains adorning the windows.  Oh yeah, and the wallpaper...
which they used to cover the closet doors as well.  Tres chic!

After taking off the first coat of paper, we found this lovely specimen that was so adhered to the wall beneath it that we couldn't even get most of it off.

But we persevered and look what happened!  New carpet and baseboards and paint and curtains- a beautiful room for two sweet babies.  Two sweet babies who still both insist on crawling into mommy and daddy's bed at 3 a.m. And also, it still has no electricity.  But whatever...look at what we did!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Warning: reading this will make you want a goat.

You might remember that post about signs and things being providential and meeting just the right people at the right time and everybody being all kumbaya and living happily ever after (and not in the snarky way, but in the real way).  Well, lately we've been trying to figure out how to de-jungle-fy our property before it has a chance to totally rejungle itself, and we were blessed with another this-is-right moment.

Oh yes, it's hard for me to remember a time when it was lush and green too, so I scrounged up these oldie-but-goodie pics, starting with this, our makeshift kitchen, which is now our real dining room, out of the window of which you can see some of our summertime jungle.

 Oh, and here's one you've probably not ever seen!  Sorry, no, we didn't hold onto that fine specimen of 1980's engineering which was taking up half the back yard and harboring six swarms of wasps and their respective nests.  The "free" section of Craigslist had scrappers here to haul it away before I could tie my shoes.  But that's a different story.  I'm only posting this so that you can get another look at our rain forest.

 And a close-up shot of a the sunset through the brush...

 Followed by a not-as-close-up shot of a different portion of our woods.
Oh yes, it is quite literally a jungle out there.
End tangent.

We don't want to damage or remove any of the mature trees and we have a steep slope and a pond to consider, so renting a big piece of equipment like a bush-hog is out.  Doing it by hand took Tommy three solid hours of whacking with his trusty-dusty machete (true story) and he barely cut a 30 foot path.  Total pain in the you-know-what.  Not doing that again! Which leads us to the obvious solution: goats!  Adorable, hearty, brush-eatin' pygmy goats who will also cut our grass and entertain our pack of herding dogs.
And the thought had barely slipped out of our brains when Tommy went to the father-daughter dance at our parish and discovered that a family we already know has two adorable, hearty, brush-eatin' pygmy goats who also cut their grass and entertain their dogs...and they are pregnant!!!  They are going to have two brand new, totally useful, totally cute pygmy kids and they are going to GIVE THEM TO US!  And everything is kumbaya, and we lived happily ever after.
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