Improvements On the Farm

This year has been a year of working on home improvement projects that have fallen behind. It feels so good to finally be accomplishing a few goals from previous years that we hadn’t gotten to yet.

House Roof

Two years ago we had a bad ice dam over Fiona’s room which caused damage to the outside wall of her room. Our homeowners insurance covered the repairs to the room but not the roof. The construction company that fixed the room told us we needed a new roof.

We went from shingles to tin.

At the time that was not possible, so every time it snowed Trenton would head up there and shovel the roof off so we didn’t have another ice dam. In northern Wisconsin we get a lot of snow so he would climb the ladder about once a week to shovel. Last year he slipped on an icy spot and almost slipped off the roof. I had to shimmy up there to toss him a rope which I looped off the chimney so he could get off the ice he was on without sliding off the roof. We decided that this year the roof was getting done.

Thankfully interest rates are low right now and we were able to refinance with a lower interest rate. Since we were switching over from shingles to tin we decided that we could do a roof over. The construction company framed over the roof and we also had them build eves over the sections that did not have any overhang previously. The tin came in and they started laying it out while the kids watched their every move. They were completely fascinated by the work going on. It took them about two weeks to finish the roof but it looks great! As a bonus they vented out the attic better so it is now actually usable space. We have been reorganizing the house and I look forward to my new attic office space, the girls will be moving in together soon, and Lucian will have his own room.

Bathroom

Sliding Barn Door

We have been remodeling our bathroom for two years now! I finally made an executive decision to have the same construction company work on our bathroom. Trenton is very handy but we both discovered that bathroom work is over our head. The crew came in and put the sub flooring in, laid vinyl, refitted the toilet, installed the tub and shower surround, put drywall in, taped and mudded, and hung the new door. They also shimmied into the crawl space to find out how the exhaust fan above the shower was vented. Apparently it was vented into the attic space above our room which is very bad. They cut a whole into the roof so they could vent it out properly. That leaves us with paint, putting up wainscoting, and trim. Skills we can handle. We have been sanding and coating poly on trim for the last few days. The walls are primed and painted. It is inching closer to being done and I am so excited to see the room finally progressing.

Barn Roof

Finally!! We have had the tin for this project for four years now. I asked my cousin Jake to come out and help Trenton put the tin on the roof labor day weekend but that didn’t quiet work out. Jake went to help a stray cat out of the road and it sank it’s teeth into his right hand. Cat bites are worse than dog bites and his hand swelled up and turned red. He needed a few weeks healing time which gave Trenton time to put roof jacks up, get ladders set and get all the materials ready to go. Jake came out Friday afternoon and Aunt Candy watched the girls while Lucian and I were at school so they could get it done. Only the top tier of the barn needed to be done so they were able to finish it by dinner time. It was very high up and the new tin was pretty slippery so I am thankful for a cousin who will help out with big projects for the price of fish fry and a few pumpkins.

This year has been great for wrapping up big projects that needed to get done. I’m looking forward to the next big rain so I can watch rain slide off the roofs instead of through them!

Now it’s time to work on pumpkins for the fall!

School In 2020

I know the main conversation topic this year has been COVID-19 and so far I have been swerving away from that topic because of several reasons.

  1. It is controversial- Everyone has a strong opinion and wants it to be heard.
  2. It is the most talked about subject right now and I occasionally want to hear about something else.
  3. There is so much information and misinformation circulating that it is hard to differentiate fact from fiction.

School is one topic that includes COVID-19 talk because it involves small children sharing their germs together. School children have always been good at sharing their germs but this year the germs have morphed into a more serious problem.

Using Lucky Charms to learn about graphing.

This March we suddenly became homeschoolers and it was an interesting experience. Lucian wavered between liking school at home and not. He liked being able to finish most of his work by lunch time which left his afternoons free and clear. He did not like having to do the work to begin with because he wanted home to be home and school to be school. I still worked half the week which left Trenton in charge of 2-3 days of school depending on the week. He discovered he does not have the patience to be a teacher and according to Lucian, “Mommy didn’t give Daddy good enough directions which made him frustrated.”

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems was a big hit this spring.

I liked homeschooling but I only made up half the week. This year our school age children are 3 and 6 which is a completely hands on age group. Also this year I have been getting more requests to teach in school in various capacities so I may not even be able to devote half the week to homeschooling.

This year my sisters and our families got together to discuss our plans for the upcoming school year. We each prepared a list of pros and cons to discuss before we each made our own decisions. Here’s an abbreviated list:

Pros for attending school:

  1. Teacher led instruction may be more effective.
  2. Separation of siblings/grade levels will be less distracting.
  3. Available resources for interventions (math, reading, speech, etc…)
  4. Socializing with peers and other adults.
  5. Parental sanity. (We love our children but a little space is nice.)

Cons for attending school:

  1. Health concerns due to higher risk of exposure.
  2. Safety concerns with identifying parents in masks.
  3. Developing anxiety from constant reminders to: put mask on, wash hands, social distance, etc…..
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

These items are just a few on our collective lists. Our discussion went back and forth for and against. Good points, bad, and a whole lot of I don’t really knows. There are no right or wrong answers this year and both the school systems and families are going to have to be flexible.

Out of our three families we ended up with one for school, one for remote learning, and one still undecided.

The Jungle Garden

This year I decided to experiment with optimizing my space in the garden. Rather than having wide rows that our big 26″ rear tine rototiller could fit down I planted my vegetables closer together to maximize our small garden space.

I have two vegetable gardens this year. One is about 4 ft. by 8 ft. and the other is about 5 ft. by 10 ft. and the pumpkin/squash patch is in our big garden this year. My idea was to plant short rows close together and hoe them regularly rather than run the rototiller every time the weeds started to take over. I thought shorter rows would be easier to manage than longer ones and with closer rows I could still plant as many vegetables as I usually do but in a smaller space.

Discoveries I made this year:

The Tomato Jungle
  • Shorter rows are easier to manage.
  • Closer together rows work well for some plants.
    • Radishes, onions, lettuce, peppers, and corn worked well to have the rows closer together. I planted 4 short onion rows and two radish rows about 6″ apart which worked out great because the plants don’t take up much space. I planted my lettuce about 8″ apart and my corn rows about 10″ apart. Having short 4 or 5 foot rows makes it easy to access the plants.
  • Closer rows DO NOT work well for some plants.
    • Mainly my tomatoes. This year seems to be a great year for my tomato plants because I have two sun sugar cherry tomatoes that are almost as tall as my sweet corn. The tomatoes have taken over the whole middle of one of my gardens and I have no idea how I am going to harvest the tomatoes when they ripen. I planted them in short rows about a foot apart and they have turned my garden into a jungle.
  • I inter spaced my corn with snap peas. Every two corn seed I planted a pea seed. The idea was to have my peas climb the corn stalks and use them as support. This would have worked out perfectly except my peas grew faster than my corn. I am planning to keep this planting arrangement next year but the corn needs about two weeks in the ground before I plant peas.

Overall our harvest has been great this year compared to last. I have been picking zucchini, summer squash, lettuce, kale, green beans, and peas. I have been enjoying the best vegetable stir fries from my own garden. My cherry tomatoes are almost ripe and I have peppers coming in. Soon we will have a ton of sweet corn. I’m going to be freezing green beans this weekend and I might even try a recipe to pickle a few.

For the most part I am happy with the garden this year but I am baffled about how I am going to brave my tomato jungle to harvest them. I really want tomato sauce and I have an awesome recipe for spiced tomato jelly from one of my book club ladies. It’s going to be a challenge but I am looking forward to the produce.

Into the Gardens

The gardens are finally growing nicely and even though our growing season is just getting started we have been busy. This year we have two small vegetable gardens, one pumpkin/squash patch, an herb garden, and a new wildflower patch. The goal for this year is to do better with the gardens. Last year we let the gardens slide a bit but this year we have really been working to keep up with them.

Vegetable Gardens

This year we rotated the majority of our vegetables from our large garden to two smaller, newer gardens. Instead of planting widely spaced rows for the rototiller to go down we planted shorter narrower rows. My goal is to keep the weeds down without having to entirely break the soil up. I was also going to mulch the garden but I’ve been able to keep up with the weeds by just hoeing the rows on a more regular basis. I have found it is easier to manage when the rows are shorter and the gardens are smaller.

The biggest drawback to closer rows is that it is harder for the kids to help in the garden without stepping on plants. The simplest solution I found to this problem was to give the kids the pumpkin patch as their garden. The two small vegetable gardens are mine and the pumpkin patch is theirs. This has been working out great because it is hard to damage a pumpkin plant, they are easily identifiable from the weeds, and there is plenty of room for the kids to work without trampling delicate plants.

Lucian also has a small “garden” of tomatoes that he has been taking care of. We grew our own starter plants this year and ended up with more tomatoes than I had room for. We planted our tomatoes then put some in at my mother-in-law’s and we still had half a dozen plants left over. Lucian wanted to plant them around the outside of his sand pit so he took all the extra plants into his care. I helped him put cages around them so when his cousins visit his tomatoes aren’t squished but other than that he’s been farming his own garden.

We are working to get fences up around the gardens so we can start letting the chickens out again now that our spring fox has moved on. I have three reasons for needing fencing around my small gardens.

Our new Welsh Harlequin ducks.
  1. To keep the goats out! I do not have a deer problem I have a goat problem. Goats love broccoli!
  2. To keep the chickens out. Free range chickens are nice to keep the bugs and ticks down but they will also decimate my garden if they are allowed to get into it.
  3. To keep the ducks in. Ducks will eat the slugs and potato bugs that chickens won’t. If I put the ducks in the garden for an hour or two at a time they will keep the bugs down without destroying the plants.

Herb Garden

Row of Calendula

I have been adding all kinds of plants to my herb garden this year. The new plants that I have finished putting in are calendula, lemon balm, thyme, lavender, oregano, rosemary, and basil. I am also going to move the comfrey out of my herb garden because it gets too big and falls over onto the other plants and crushes them. The bees and butterflies enjoy this plant which is good but it is right next to my deck and I’d rather Penelope not try to grab a buzzing bumble bee through the deck rails. I’m going to put it behind the garage where it will still feed the bees but won’t destroy my other plants.

The biggest challenge of my herb garden is keeping the grass out. I could mulch it which would help but I like to let the chamomile and borage reseed themselves. That way I don’t have to replant it every year I only have to weed around the new plants as they pop up in early spring.

Wildflower Patch

Fiona wanted flowers and so we planted flowers. Trenton tilled one swipe with the rototiller to break ground in the yard in front of our screen porch and Fiona and I spread a few packets of wildflower seeds. We also planted a little of everything else I had lying around. It became a patch of fresh earth to dump all the old flower seeds in. I am very surprised by how well they are growing. I have no idea what all the plants are but there are a lot of them. I weeded out the grass for the first time yesterday and got a look at all the different types. I believe it will be a beautiful flower patch in another month as long as I can keep most of the grass out of it.

First Garden Harvest

Pickled Radishes

The first plants ready to harvest in the garden are always the radishes. Since I always seem to plant more radishes than I can use fresh I decided to pickle a few to see what happens. Last year I planted white icicle radishes and experimented with pickling them. The results were not bad but they were a little weird. This year I planted regular red radishes and tried a different recipe. We’ll see how they taste but they already look much prettier than last year’s experiment.

Spring Updates

Spring is a time of change on the farm and I thought it would be good to write a little update.

Kids (The Human Kind)

Lucian finished school this last week which is nice. As the weather has gotten nicer homeschooling has gotten a little harder. We all wanted to be outside working. Although we did work on school work out on the deck a bit I found it was harder for him to concentrate because he was busy thinking about everything else he would rather be doing. Homeschooling was a fun experience and while I have a few fun enrichment activities for the next few weeks we are ready for summer break.

Fiona is my horse girl and while it makes me happy that she loves the horses, the girl has no fear. I’m afraid I’ll turn my back one day to find my 3 year old riding Jack around the pasture giggling hysterically. My darling Penelope is 15 months old already and the vast majority of my time is spent chasing her around. Since she has started walking her and Fiona have become partners in crime and if you know my eldest daughter you know that’s a scary thought.

Goats

Nora and her kids have been acting funny lately so while the vet was here to check horses I had her check on the goats too. It started with her kids frothing at the mouth and screaming like they were in pain for a few minutes. These episodes would dissipate but then a few days later they would start again. I thought it was only effecting the kids until I saw Nora foaming at the mouth a few days before the vet came out. She was not screaming in pain but she was foaming, coughing, and snorting like she was choking. We did a little research and landed on frothy bloat which the vet confirmed while she was here. She recommended we give them a goat probiotic to help line their gut and help dissipate the bloat. Frothy bloat is caused by many different things but she said it usually happens when they ingest too much clover. This started after we began feeding out new round bales so I’m guessing it was something in the different hay. The only oddity is that the other goats didn’t have a problem too since they were eating the same hay.

The kids (the goat kind) are doing well now. I had a little difficulty with Fauna’s triplets a few weeks ago. I didn’t catch that the little brown one was not getting enough to eat and was starving. I have everyone out on grass now and have been separating the kids so the little one has her own mommy time. She is doing much better and playing and running with her siblings. One of Nora’s kids is limping a little but I’m guessing he twisted something and will be perfectly fit in a few days. I made a video of them playing around in the pasture.

I have been milking every morning and have been making cheese every other day. Right now my favorite cheese is a fresh cheese that uses lemon juice to curdle the milk. It is awesome on crackers.

Chickens

I put the pullets from our Easter hatch-out in with the adult chickens this week. There was a little incident the first day where one chick tried to crawl under the fence and somehow got it’s wing stuck. We were able to wiggle her out without injuring her or cutting the fence. I am still waiting to see if our setting hen will successfully hatch out chicks or if I am going to have to toss out nasty eggs. I think she had one break under her recently because she smells pretty bad. It has been about three weeks so chicks should start hatching any day now. I’m going to give her one more week before I toss the eggs out.

Horses

The horses have been getting a workout this year. My sister Sam and her kids have been coming out at least once a week to work with horses. They are groomed, hooves cleaned, lunged, and ridden on a regular basis now which is great.

Last weekend the kids rotated working with the horses and shoveling out the lean-to. The horses did great! Melody has vastly improved and is getting desensitized from kids. She was ridden around the pasture by a handful of future horsemen and women and she was very attentive to her young riders. I rode double with the younger ones on Jack alongside Melody. My sister, Sam, has been riding out on Melody with me and Jack into the big hay field next to our property. She definitely needs the practice and it’s good for Sam too. Jack however, is getting tired of little rides and is ready to go farther out. I’m hoping by next week we can go for a while because he is getting bored and he was never very patient.

The horses had their once a year vet check last week. Melody has a little arthritis in her front left leg but it will be easily managed with exercise and a little Bute. Jack on the other hand has developed a heart murmur. He is 24 years old now and over the last two years he has started to get a little touchy with his health. The vet assured me that she has known horses to live perfectly well for years with a slight heart murmur but we are now watching him closely. We are still able to ride him but if he starts to tire easily or is lethargic he will become a pasture pony. I’m hoping we have a few more years to get out and about before that happens because I have had him for 23 years and don’t particularly want a new riding horse.

Into Spring

Spring is one of my favorite seasons. It is starting to get warm, the sun is shining more, and the grass is starting to grow again. I see spring as a promise of better things to come. A sunnier outlook if you will. Spring is also a busy time of year. There are additional repairs to be done, new babies being born, seeds to be planted, new animals joining the farm, and yard work to do.

kimg0749Repairs:

  1. The chicken coop needs to be fixed so the chickens will stop escaping. There are a few holes in the fence so the chickens free range. Last year in early spring we had a fox take about a dozen chickens before I was able to scare it off. This year I want the coop fixed so we don’t have hungry fox issues. I plan to let the chickens free range later in the summer for short periods of time but for now they are safer inside.
  2. We are going to change the design of our duck coop to try a pair of ducks. I know I said I didn’t want ducks again but I want to try only having two with a better set-up. The ducks were good at getting rid of potato bugs in the garden and their eggs were nice too.

kimg0714New Babies:

  1. It is almost kidding time! Our goats, Nora and Fauna, are looking pretty wide and are almost ready to have their babies. Having goat kids on the farm is fun and exciting but it also adds a few extra chores to the day. During a kid’s first day of life it is crucial to be sure they are warm and nursing properly. So we are monitoring the does for labor signs and getting ready for new kids. The pens are cleaned out, heat lamps are ready, and Franky has been moved out of the barn. Fiona has been checking for baby goats every morning and can’t wait for when they arrive. She will be soooooo excited!
  2. Chicks will be hatching soon! Due to the school closures I was unable to start our incubator at school with the 4th grade like I usually do but I was able to start it at home with my own children and their cousins. We have been holding Science Saturdays when we do chick related activities and discuss how they are developing. Our last Science Saturday was via Google Hangout but we’re making it work.

Planting Seeds:

  1. We decided to plant our own starter plants this year. We’ve planted our own starters in the past but most of the time we purchase our broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers from local greenhouses. The trend right now is panic buying so we thought we would prepare for that and just plant our own. It will save us money and hopefully they do well.
  2. We are also trying to grow an Avocado tree from a few pits we have saved. This was part of a Science Saturday project so I’m hoping between the 8 cousins we will be able to start one tree.

New Animals:kimg0751

  1. We picked up our spring piglets from my dad’s farm last week and they are settling in nicely. They are still little so they are inside the barn in the farrowing pen Trenton made when we had a bred sow. They will stay inside until we are able to put a load of sand into the pig pen behind the barn. The pen is still a bit mucky from last year’s pigs and it needs to be cleaned out and filled in before we put the new pigs outside. Our niece decided they should be named Despereaux and Wilbur.
  2. Ducklings have been ordered and will be here by May 15th. I am looking forward to having ducks again with our new coop idea for them. I think having fewer ducks in a different area will be better than what we had before.

Yard Work:

  1. Dog poop, enough said. Cleaning the yard from the winter mess is a process.

There are also a few new challenges that were unexpected but we are rolling with them. Predicting to stay at home for the next month wasn’t in my plans but now that it is we’re getting a little inventive as far as work, school, and farm life goes. For example, I will be making video’s for the Kindergarten class I am still teaching as a long-term sub. I will be making calendar time videos three days a week as well as sharing my family’s Science Saturday projects. I made my first video for them last night and even though I had to do it twice and lock everyone else in the basement I think it went well.

I will also be making short “Story Time on the Farm” videos for Northwind Book and Fiber which is the local bookstore I work at. Today I made a clip of me reading in the pasture with Nora and Fauna and next week I think I will make one with the new pigs.

 

 

Change of Pace

Tragic events in one person’s life affect many others in different ways. The unexpected passing of a much loved teacher left Northwood School District of Minong sad and shaken. They really pulled together to comfort their students and staff. There was also a scramble to find long term subs for his class and for one of the Kindergarten teachers meant to go on maternity leave this last week. The school district decided the long-term sub lined up for Kindergarten would be a better fit for the 5th grade class who had lost their teacher so suddenly. She had helped with that class several times over the

person reading a book

Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

year and is more familiar with their routines.

I was called on Sunday with a temporary job opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.  For the next ten weeks my family is going to have a drastic change of routine because I am going to be a full time Kindergarten teacher while the regular teacher is out on maternity leave. Do I have much experience teaching Kindergarten? Not really, but I will soon!

kimg0646This will be a bigger change for the girls than it will be for Lucian because he spends most of his weekdays in school while the girls are home with me. The girls will be spending half of their week with their great Aunt Candy and the other half with their Daddy. Lucian will be riding the bus every morning rather than me bringing him to school and Grandma “da” will be picking him up half the week as I will not be home in time to get him off the bus.

In order to get to work by 7:45 (ugh) I’ll need to do prep-work every night.

In the barn:

  • Unravel enough hay from the round bale for the horses so I can just pitch it too them in the dark of the morning.
  • Put hay out in the winter pasture for the goats.
  • Fill chicken bucket with feed.

For kids:

  • Pack diaper bag with diapers, wipes, snacks, extra clothes, sippy cup, and baby food.
  • Pull outfits for Lucian, Fiona, and Penelope.
  • Find snow pants, boots, hats, and mittens for the morning.

For me:

  • Pack my bag.
  • Set coffee pot.
  • Pack lunch.

It is going to be completely different and a lot of work but I am looking forward to it. I am also glad my boss at the bookstore is awesome and is understanding of my need to take a 10 week hiatus from work. As long as I am back in time for her to go to Ireland at the end of April she will be able to fill in the schedule. Thank goodness it is the slow time of year at the bookstore or this wouldn’t work out.

 

Maintaining Over the Winter

The days are getting longer as we enter the hard winter months. I consider January and February as the two months of hard winter. November and December are the months that start winter and March and April are the months that start spring but January and February belong only to winter.

During the hard winter months there is not a lot progressing on the farm, we mostly huddle down and wait. We wait for the weather to warm up, we wait for the days to lengthen, and we work at maintaining our health and the health of the animals.

Hay for Horses

This year was not a good year for haymaking which means hay is in short supply. We bought most of the hay we needed in July before it became really wet and obvious that it would be a bad hay year. I say most because we have an extra horse this year that we hadn’t had before. I calculated how much hay we would need but I forgot that when given free rein on hay horses are really pretty pigs. I figured a 1,000 pound round bale would last two horses about two and a half weeks when apparently they can eat a round bale in a week and a half. This harsh reality burned about a month off my hay supply.

I am feeding small squares now and rationing how much hay they get. They are no longer fat like they were when I let them free range on the round bales but now they are maintaining their proper weight. They are also pissy about their new diet it but last year I bought 50 pound small squares for $3 while right now the price is $7 -$10 for a 50 pound bale. Needless to say they are sticking to their regimented diet for the remainder of the winter.

Goats

There is nothing new with maintaining the goats over the winter. Mainly we bring them in at night, give them hay, break open their water, and make sure they have a good salt and mineral block. The block is important for the does to keep them healthy while they, hopefully, develop healthy babies. Goats need copper and selenium in their diets to stay healthy. We discovered this a few years ago when one of our goat kids was born with a little lump on his throat. It didn’t bother him in anyway but it was a deformity that we wondered about until Trenton’s uncle Kenny told him our goats needed a better mineral block. He had raised goats a few years before and had the same problem until he provided goat specific minerals and then poof no more lumpy babies.

The girls huddle together in the barn at night and Franky, our buck, has also been enjoying time in the barn. The good part about Franky in the barn at night is that he gets handled more when we bring him in and put him outside in the morning. The bad part is that he is not always docile. Right now his behavior is mostly playful but there are times when I can see him think about being more aggressive. He is on my watch list for aggressive behaviors. We have a strict no aggressive males on the farm policy but I would like to get one more breeding season from him at least.

Chickens

I think the chickens dislike the winter the most. They are unhappy about the snow, cold, and darkness of winter. Of my 17ish flock I am getting 1-2 eggs a day. That is enough to keep us mostly in eggs but not enough to sell to anyone. We were able to clean the coop with a mid December thaw and the fresh straw to pick through kept them happy for a few days but now they are back in their winter slump. I’m hoping with the longer days they will start laying soon. We are also trying to decide if we want to incubate chicks at home this year or buy a few chicks to freshen the flock.

Kids (The human kind)kimg0581

Lucian, Fiona, Penelope and I unloaded a trailer full of firewood on Sunday while it was above freezing. It was nice to have all the kids out working without them crying they were cold within 10 minutes. Penny sat in her sled and watched us work while I hauled the wood and Lucian and Fiona slid it closer to the end of the trailer so I could reach it. Lucian and Fiona have been enjoying going sledding down one of the giant snow banks created when we plowed the driveway. They sled each day when Lucian gets done with school and come in rosy cheeked and wet from rolling in the snow.

Other Projects

kimg0619

Cable Hat for my dad!

I have been hastily knitting birthday presents for a while  but I think I am done now and can work on more leisurely projects. I’m looking forward to warmer weather. Before long it will be sugar season and we will start tapping the maple trees. The kids love hiking out to collect sap and I do too. Penny is old enough now to go out in the sled so I hope we do better on sap this year. Last year we didn’t tap as many trees as we usually do so we ran out of syrup a long time ago.

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas yesterday and spent time enjoying their families. To me Christmas is a time to rest and spend time with my family. This post is mostly a recap of our Christmas fun.

Before Christmas

Last year we started a new tradition of looking through our toys and giving away a few that are no longer played with. Lucian and Fiona looked through their toys and put a box together to give away. This was a very hard task for our 5 and 3 year old. We had a long discussion about sharing and giving toys to kids who don’t have any. Our box only had a few toys in it to give away but its more about the concept than the amount of toys leaving the house.

Christmas Eve

We spent Christmas Eve at my sister’s house for our family’s Christmas celebration. The kids made ornaments, frosted cookies for Santa, and went sledding before we all had dinner together. The kids played one organized game before opening presents. At Thanksgiving we had each child draw a name for who they would be getting a present for at Christmas. It was our first year of drawing names and it worked quite well. My sisters and I also drew names for what Holidays we would be hosting during this next year. I managed to draw Thanksgiving again. The kids had a great time but were very tired when it was time to go. Spending Christmas Eve with my sisters, parents, grandma, and nieces and nephews is one of the best parts of Christmas for me, that and Alecia’s hot chocolate!

Christmas Day

Our day started later than usual because the kids slept in after too much fun playing with their cousins. When we were all awake we opened our stockings then took turns opening our presents. Lucian is old enough to shop for others now so he was very happy when we unwrapped presents from him. I think it is important for him to learn to

kimg0594

give gifts and think of what a specific person would like. Lucian received a farm set and Fiona a stable that we set up in our playroom/attic space upstairs where Penelope can’t destroy them and try to eat the small parts. I would say that Fiona’s favorite is a new play-dough set with dough scissors that Lucian picked for her and Lucian’s is a harmonica. He wanted me to play with him so I dug our my Clarinet, which I haven’t played in about 2 years, and Fiona strummed the guitar on the floor while Penelope used it as a drum. We had our own little jam session which was really fun. The kids played with their new toys, we played with each other, everyone took a nice nap, and we had dinner with Grandma “da” so we had a great day.

On The Farm 

Even though it was a holiday chores still had to be done. The weather has been temperate at about 30 to 35 degrees so the goats have been going outside everyday to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. The chickens are even starting to venture out into the light. They don’t appreciate all the snow and while I should shovel their yard out a bit I have focused on walkways and the porch. So far we have accumulated approximately 2 feet of snow so I’m limiting where I shovel.

Our new horse, Melody, had a bit of a scare yesterday. All the snow whooshed off the lean-to roof and scared her. She went running and squealing so Jack had to run and go check on her. She was still freaked out when I fed them their grain and I had to coax her back into the lean-to. Fiona likes to feed Jack out of her hand so she kept him occupied while I convinced Melody it was safe to come inside.

Not only did we have a relaxing day at home we also worked on hauling a bit of firewood into the shed. Doing firewood is still one of Lucian’s favorite things to do so he was happy as a lark loading wood onto the trailer and watching the wood-splitter split the big logs.

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We had a great Christmas Day spending time with each other while still accomplishing a few necessary tasks and we all took a nap. I hope everyone had a day just as lovely!

Road Trip Tips

Going on a road trip can be a fun adventure but a road trip with little kids can be more challenging. Planning a successful trip (by successful I mean with the least amount of crying, complaining, and fighting) takes a bit more time than just throwing things into the car and leaving.

  1. Timing is Everything:

Knowing how long your trip is and when your kids take a nap is an essential. Sleeping through a portion of the trip will make it seem shorter to them and reduce the boredom of being confined to a small space for hours.kimg0560-1

For example, tomorrow we are leaving on the 5 hour drive to visit relatives in Minnesota. The plan is to leave around 9 because Penelope usually takes a morning nap at 10ish. We will stop for lunch around noon and Fiona naps just after lunch. In theory the girls will nap on the drive and will be well rested and in good moods by the time we get there.

2. Pack an In-Car Bag:

This is my list of essentials for in the car:

  • Books
  • Coloring Supplies
  • Small Toys
  • Snacks
  • Water Bottles

3. SING!

When the crying starts get ready to sing a few songs to distract the kids from their troubles. Remember a few:

  • The Ants Go Marching 1 By 1
  • This is the Song That Never Ends
  • ABC’s
  • John Jacob Jingle Himer Schmidt
  • Jeremiah was a Bullfrog
  • And any other song you can think of!

4. Take a Break

If the weather is nice stop for a bit and walk around. Being cramped in a car for a long time is really hard on little kids so getting out and taking a short walk will help.

5. Extra Snacks

The simple truth with children is that snacks make everything better so be sure to pack enough.

Our trip starts in the morning and while I’m not looking forward to the drive I am looking forward to having a nice visit with family.