Wednesday, April 2, 2014

collecting coins

We've been studying early American history this year, particularly the time period of the mid to late 1700's (the time of the French and Indian War and then, later, the Revolutionary War.)

All three of us have really enjoyed learning about our nation's beginnings. I'm sure I learned it as a child too, but I always seem to remember a very fragmented history education in public school. And textbooks? UGH.

We've been using Queen Homeschooling Supplies' A Living History of Our World Volume 1, and then I've been supplementing with the many "living" books on early American history that I've picked up over the last few years. I have learned far more about our country's beginnings in the last seven months than I can ever remember learning in my twelve years of public education.

Since both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War were fought in the area in which we live (Fort Duquesne is only about 40 miles south of us as well as other battlegrounds that surround us), the kids have developed quite an interest and desire to explore the surrounding land. Ian's already requested a metal detector for his birthday this year, and Lily was out in our backyard yesterday digging holes looking for arrowheads. lol.

Monday, my brother-in-law found a coin from the late 1800's. Since Monday night, my kids have collected all of the pennies in our home and have set to cleaning and inspecting them. Of course, we don't have coins that date back that far. I think the farthest back they've found so far was 1962, but they've been having so much fun and we've turned it into a bit of a lesson, researching how the chemical make-up of the penny has changed over the years. The kids also thought it very interesting that the good 'ole penny has been around since the end of the Revolutionary War.

Now Ian's set on finding pennies for as many years as he can. And we hardly had any room to eat our dinner last night as our only table was covered in pennies.

I'm excited to visit more early American war reenactments this year. We always try to hit one or two each summer. And I'm even more excited this year because we'll have a year of the history behind it under our belts and fresh in our minds.

I love history.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

her first quilt

Well, she finished it. Her very first machine-sewn project.

And just in time, I must add, since the recipient is going to be needing it within the next day or so. 

You see, this little quilt is for the newest member of our family. My sister-in-law is in the hospital right this moment in the midst of that glorious, but oh-so-painful, thing we know as labor. And {hopefully} she will be delivering her and her husband's very first baby very soon. A baby girl. 

Lily is so excited to give this to her. She even stitched a drawstring bag out of a vintage sheet (or pillowcase, I can't remember) to wrap it in. And I'm hoping that today by dinnertime, we'll be able to take the short trip to the hospital to see the new baby.

And if you think about it, please say a prayer for my sister-in-law. Her name is Amber, too. She's pretty nervous about this whole thing, as all first-time mommies are.

Monday, March 24, 2014


Saturday afternoon...

 Sunday afternoon...
Sunday evening...
What was completed by Sunday quitting time (I took this photo this morning as it was dark when they finished up last night.)...
Very early this morning... (Working even before the official paid "work" day started.)
This little guy is extremely excited about all of this...
Even Midi wants in on all of the fun...
My wonderful, hard-working man...
My equally wonderful, hard-working dad...
What can I say? He's a boy. He likes to climb stuff.
We (well, I should mostly say "they") really accomplished a lot on the alpaca barn this weekend. Brad, my dad, and I worked together to set and cement the poles Friday evening. 

On Saturday, Brad, Sergei, and my dad worked on getting more structural work done. 

Yesterday was our big work day. Oh, I know some of you will probably disapprove of us for working on the Sabbath. I know. We don't usually do that kind of thing, but it's when we could get the most help, and time is of the essence with the alpacas. Although Peggy and Frank assured us that they would keep the alpacas until we have the barn done, we do not want to take advantage of their kindness. So it's head down and plow-on for us. 

Yesterday was so frigid. It was in the low to mid-20's all day. I felt so bad for the guys. Brad, Sergei, my dad, and Brad's dad came out after church and worked solid until 6:30pm. I made a big turkey dinner for everyone last night. They came in and ate and got right back to work, working until a bit after dark.

I really do appreciate the time they all gave to work on this. It was such a miserably cold day out yesterday, and I know that they were all frozen. But those hard-working men worked on despite of the bitter cold. 

Brad and my dad took two trucks out to the local sawmill before the sun was even up this morning to pick up our order of rough cut lumber that will be used on the sides of the barn. Brad is hoping to start installing the shingles on the roof tonight after work. His friend may be coming over to help. I'm more than happy to feed bellies in exchange for much-appreciated (so very much appreciated) help.

I'm getting so very excited about this adventure. So very excited.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

a {small} barn and other homestead happenings...

{I'm absolutely squealing with delight right now that I can finally share this news with you.}

We're building a barn. Yep. It's actually quite a small barn. Only 14 ft x 14 ft square. Brad's been spending all of his extra moments planning, designing, sketching, and calculating.

And he ordered the last of the lumber this morning. Rough cut for the exterior, of course, because we do love that rustic look of rough cut. {Plus, all of our other outbuildings are done in rough cut.}

So by tomorrow evening, we should have a big, neat stack of lumber sitting out in our driveway. And then Saturday {weather permitting; I heard we're to have a mix of rain and snow all day which is awful weather for barn building} we're having a barn-building party. You're invited, of course, as long as you come willing to work hard. {wink. wink.}

So why are we building a small barn? Well, scroll on down...

To house these two beauties! Our new alpacas!
Do you even know how much this excites me???? If you've been reading my blog for the last several years you probably remember me talking about my dream of owning alpacas. {Here, here, and here} But, goodness sakes, they are so pricey! Unaffordable. That's what consistently held us back.

Until now. Do you remember my post about All Above Alpaca Farm? You can read about the amazing yarn that Peggy, co-owner of the farm, gave me a couple of years ago and what I did with one of the hanks in this post.

We took the long, but very scenic, drive out to Frank and Peggy's farm a little over a week ago. They had called and offered us an unbelievable price on two of their male alpacas. Well, I didn't think Brad would go for it. He's so busy with work and, of course, we would need a barn and fencing installed. 

But we went anyway. 

And we all fell in love. With Majestico {the brown one} and Gander {the white one.}

And the really funny thing {to me anyway} is that I got out of the car in their driveway and saw this woman with a huge smile on her face coming towards us with two full plastic bags. Now keep in mind that Brad and I never met Peggy or Frank. Brad works with their son. 

This woman came up to me so happy and smiley, and I have to say I was confused because there were several cars there as a party they were having was just breaking up and other people were coming out of the house as well. {Forgive the run-on.} So I really had no idea who this was! 

She started pulling all of this wonderful crafty stuff out the bags ~ sewing books, a felt kit, fabric, and quilt kit, etc. And she said that she knew that Lily would enjoy it since she was learning to sew. I was even more confused. I still did not know who this woman was for sure, and I really did not know how she knew so much about Lily learning to sew. 

Until she preceded to tell me that she reads my blog. And then I realized that she was Peggy. And I think at that point I gave her a big excited hug!

Okay, I realize that that was probably one of those "you-had-to-be-there" moments. :) It was just funny to me.

We spent several hours at Frank and Peggy's. We just clicked. It was one of those occasions where you don't realize how late it is and how far past dinnertime it really is because you're having such a good time! {Of course, my kids may beg to differ. Ahem.}  

 We talked about life and alpacas, and, gee, I'm really not sure what else. It was such a good time.

I traded three of my handmade scarves for a beautiful {no, stunning really} alpaca rug which now adorns the floor on my side of the bed so I can feel its softness squish between my toes each morning and night.

And we left their farm the brand new owners of two male alpacas. 

Really? Did that really just happen? I keep asking myself that.

So, we're in sonic mode here as we try to get this barn-building rolling. They are keeping Majestico and Gander on the farm until we get it up and ready. 

This is such an exciting thing for our family. We're all thrilled and, admittedly, a bit intimidated. But this is how we usually do things ~ research a bit and then jump right in because you really don't learn fully until you are in the midst of doing. 

And now that you read that whole mouthful of information, I'm wondering if you stuck with me. 

Well, for those of you who have, the other homesteading happenings that are going on right now are some planning and prepping for the spring weather which {surely} isn't too far ahead.

I bought most of my seeds this morning. We will still buy plants for some of the veggies we plant, but that purchasing and planting comes much later. I'm itching to get my seeds in, but I don't dare until I know we're out of the freeze zone that has been so relentless this winter.

I organized my seed packets using a new method I just recently discovered online. I found the photo albums for $1.00 a piece. I have veggies/herbs in one and flowers in another.  {By the way, GRIT is a wonderful online resource, and they have an awesome and very informative magazine that we have a subscription to as well.}

Oh my goodness, now I just have to gear up to make these raised beds workable again. I don't know where all of these rocks could possibly come from. This is what my beds look like at every winter's end, and I spend hours cleaning them out. But, alas, these rocks just seem to reproduce each winter. 

I will scatter oats on the surface of the beds for the chickens as I do every spring. They love oats, and they will get in the beds and scratch up the dirt. This helps to get that first crusty layer of dirt loosened up. Then I go in with my tools.

And I've been working on getting Midi ready to be the farm dog she was purchased to be. She's been around the chickens since we first got her. At first she was scared and very timid, but now she's a regular ole' herding dog. She runs around them, herds them up, and pushes them towards the chicken yard. It's really cute. And it's funny how that instinct just exists in some dogs without them even being taught. She is a "mutt" but two of the breeds that she has in her are known to be excellent farm dogs. 

And the other planning I'm doing is the chicken planning. We're down to eighteen hens. And they've laid exceptionally {and surprisingly} well throughout the entire winter. So I'm really afraid that come next winter, they're all going to just stop producing {chickens are born with all of their eggs so once those eggs are laid, they are unable to lay more.)

I'm thinking I may get eight more layers. I'd like to get more, but the coop only permits accommodation for that many more.

I've also been throwing around the idea of getting Cornish Rocks to raise for meat. Brad wants to eventually raise turkeys for meat because you get a lot more bang for your buck with those (some meat turkeys weigh in at 35-40 pounds when they are dressed.) It really does make sense. 

But I've already been told by my wonderful {but often stressed out husband because I have so many homesteading ideas and endeavors} that turkeys are out this year. As is the pig I wanted to raise for meat. 

That's okay. They're on my homesteading goals list. And so were alpacas. {Smile}

Thursday, March 13, 2014

a silly photo session

How many attempts does it take to get this silly girl to smile a real smile and cooperate for a posed picture?

 I even tried to tickle a smile out of her. Just got more goofiness.

  These were some real, hard, belly laughs. I love those. 

 Almost there...

 Well, folks, I think this is the closest we're gonna get. I'll take it.

And now back to the silliness...