Monday, December 30, 2013

Help Wanted!

Farm in progress looking for assistance in a rebuilding effort February 4-8, 2014. Must be willing to swing a hammer, get dirty, and take direction from Ghon. Additional merit points awarded if candidate can lift heavy items, be part of a lifting team or owns power tools. Payment includes self-satisfaction, fellowship, libation, good food and your name and photo included on the Project Farmhouse blog. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen available upon request. Candidates willing to help in advance must be available on any Monday or Wednesday through January. Payment for the advanced opportunity includes all of the above options and a sneak peek at the stone work. Be a part of this exciting adventure - join the Hummingbird Farm re-construction team today!

Seriously, we need a little help.

For those of you that know us well enough to know Ghon's medical history, the last surgery not only left a constant clicking in his chest as well as a nifty scar, he came through with a couple hernias. One has been giving him some problems lately (anyone know a general surgeon, cough, cough Dr. V!) and will likely need some attention in 2014. If you have followed the blog for a while, you may remember the demolition day we held last spring. The plan then was to demo and start rebuilding. Some rotten wood in the living room floor brought those plans to a screeching halt. We had a fabulous demo, but the rebuild has been very slow. We have the concrete forms in place to support the new beams we purchased. Problem is, we can't get the beams/timbers in the house.

Seems that between Ghon, his hernia, and Eric, these suckers really were too heavy to lift and carry to the house. Rather than partake in one of two different New Year's Day traditions, Ghon is going to try to see if Tim and Eric are off and can help work at the house. Fingers are crossed that adding Tim and I to the mix is enough to get these suckers in the house. I did play She-Ra growing up and wore Wonder Woman underoos, so maybe my addition would be enough (ha ha!). If not, we may need additional (wo)manpower.

We'd really like to get them in and set before the first week of February. Ghon should have enough time to reconstruct the floor, and then that first week really can be framing walls and maybe even hanging drywall. We will hopefully have our fireplace done too. Our move in-date really hinges on getting the living room done since it was the room with the most damage. The upstairs pales in comparison to the work needed downstairs.

The beginning of February seems like an odd time to work on this, but it is Ghon's first chance to break away from retail after the holiday shopping season. He's burned out, and it's wearing on me too, so we need the time. Yes, I have the dates right, starting on a Tuesday. Monday he gets his latest tattoo finished.

So please, leave a comment below, Facebook message me or Ghon, text us, call us, and let us know if you have a couple hands to lend. There is plenty of inside and outside work to do. You name it, we will probably let you do it. You can even bring a friend if you want.

Friday, December 27, 2013

'Twas the night before Christmas

'Twas the day before Christmas and so much to get done
Shopping, baking cookies and other holiday fun.
A morning run around town with my family of four
Doctor's office, hot donuts and final holiday deals to score.
After lunch there was no time for Dad to talk,
He drove off to the farm to take his rifle for a walk.

The kids decorated the tree and made baked goods
While Daddy sat in a swaying tree up high in the woods.
As I pulled from the oven a pan of Christmas Crack
I waited to receive a photo of a deer with a nice big rack.
Imagine my surprise when the photo did arrive,
but it was a big ol' turkey, no longer alive.
With hints of changing plans for Christmas dinner
I thought starvation might be a good way to get thinner.
As dusk fell and Christmas Eve dinner was ready
Daddy came home, proud of his shot so deadly.

Dinner complete and the final presents covered in wrap,
We put the kids to bed hoping for a long winter's nap.
It was now time to do the deed,
Time to clean the fowl shot this holiday eve.
Pluck, scald, pluck, and gut is what I was told
Fine, you go do it out in the cold.
You make the kill, you must harvest
though I did feel a little bad it was out in the darkness.
As I snuck outside to document with a picture,
I was to receive no less than a brief lecture.

Fine, it was disgusting but true
It was too late and too cold for one plucker to do.
I threw on a warm jacket and found latex gloves
For surely this was one thing I would not do as he does.
We plucked in the dark for as long as we could
then inside with the turkey for our collective good
A little more defeathering then it was time
to remove the guts while acting like we were fine.
There is no way I could do it, but I must admit
It was cool to see the heart but only for a bit.

About twelve pounds in size, but not in the end
A little too long in the scald she did spend.
I despise hunters that kill just for the sport
You must use something for a life cut short.
So boneless, skinless, fillets we made
And also saved two huge turkey legs.
Into the freezer the meat went
Time to clean up and prepare for tomorrow's main event!
Loaded with presents the tree was a beautiful sight!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Turkey in the woods! Turkey in the woods! 

Oh, pluck it.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Slow progress

The closer we get to the end of the year, less and less work is done on the house.

'Cause you know, it's hunting season. And oh, yeah, Christmastime.

The retail business is booming, so Ghon is hardly ever home. But when he is, he's either editing wedding photos or sleeping. Or doing outdoorsy things like hunting and trapping.  As for me, I'm busy working, shopping, trying to keep up with the kids, and I've been sick, twice.

Last week, I received an update on our fireplace insert, and it wasn't good. Now, it seems the style we ordered is on back order and we won't get the insert until mid January. Major bummer.

Monday, Ghon did a little hunting, then Eric came by to give him a hand at the house. The plan was to bring in some floor timbers that were replacing the rotten ones we removed.  I sent Ghon a text to find out how things were going and received the following reply.

The timbers are very heavy.

Not much progress was made. I've been told they did some cleanup in the living room, which including sweeping dust into the hole in the floor. Luckily for them, they also jacked the ceiling up some more and re-tightened all the screws. That's all that's been done.

Just before they left for the evening, Ghon headed into the woods to reposition some trail cameras and ended up taking a shot at a deer. A successful shot. It was the second of the day, as Tim had a successful hunt that morning.

We've had a bit of snow too this past week, probably about 12-13 inches total between two storms. I never did get the yard picked up like I'd hoped. This weekend, it's going to be nearly 60 degrees on Saturday, after temperatures in the 30s all week. I'm sure there will be lots of mud in the field, but perhaps the kids and I will stop by and do a little pick up.

I doubt it though if I'm being honest with myself. We have to get our Christmas tree and I want to finish shopping!

Deer Season Stats:
Tim - 3
Ghon - 2
Ryan - 1

If you haven't clicked that "Top Mommy Blog" button in a while, it's over there on your right. Click it. I dare you.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cookies for everyone!

One of Ghon's favorite fantasies of farm life involves baking. Weird, right?

He has a grand idea that Genevieve and I could bake a pie while he and Jonathan are out hunting, or doing yard work, anything but working in the kitchen. Once our pie is out of the oven, I am expected to set it in a window to cool. (sounding like an old TV show yet?)  Then, while I am not looking, the two boys will steal the pie and chow down in the woods.


I've had to remind him that the kitchen windows do not have the kind of sill that can hold a pie, and for them to steal it, it would mean no screens. Still, he's determined to find a way to make this work.

Lucky for him, I do enjoy baking, even if pies aren't at the top of my list. The kids love helping me too, especially Genevieve.

The past few days have brought a ton of snow to our area with even more expected this weekend. My dad drove past the farm and mentioned that it appeared that there were some tracks in the driveway. Come to find out, our awesome neighbor Daniel came by with his tractor and plowed the driveway for us!  How fantastic is that?

This weekend, our local volunteer fire department is having a breakfast with Santa fundraiser event. The kids love having breakfast there, so of course we are going. They are having a bake sale as well and are looking for donations of baked goods. I offered to make some items for the sale.

What better way to thank someone for volunteering their time than with cookies!

Genevieve and I prepared the cookie batter, then after dinner, the kids helped me prep and bake a batch of snickerdoodles. A few went into waiting tummies, but a dozen went to Daniel and the rest prepared for the bake sale.

Who knows, maybe one day Ghon and Jonathan will get that pie.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Partytime in Sickville

First Jonathan came down with a cough. Then I started with the sinus pressure, sore throat, and cough. A few days later, it was Genevieve's turn. She started with a fever and runny/stuffy nose. The house is filled with the sound of blowing noses, coughing, and whining. Genevieve and I seemed to be hit the worst.

Saturday was Ghon's birthday and a birthday party for one of the kid's friends. Pop took Jonathan to Tae Kwon Do so that Genevieve and I wouldn't have to head out in the cold. After relaxing a bit more, we headed out to the party.

Jonathan trying to stand up in skates with help from Mr. Mike.

Climbing the rock wall!

Feeling a little better...

After all the party fun, we had to stop at a couple of stores then head home to get ready for Daddy's birthday!

While I started dinner, I wrapped Ghon's present from the kids and let them decorate the brown paper. Ghon came home just in time for dinner. Once dinner was complete, we had cake and let Dad open his presents.

Birthday Cake!

Cammo inside

Kid decorated wrapping paper

Grinning 'cause he can see what it is!

Opening my gifts

Gangsta - he thought the bourbon completed the look

As I'm typing this post, it is snowing heavily outside. Ghon's at work, and us sickies are having a pajama day. I'd love to see the farmhouse in the snow, but no way am I driving down there! I'm praying Ghon makes it home safely.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Back order

The Jotul insert was supposed to be in one to one and a half weeks after order.

It's been two weeks and it's not here. We've been told it's on back order and likely won't be in until the weekend before Christmas.

Dang it.

I'm still hoping that we can have it inserted by year end, but the chances of that happening are a little bit slimmer now.

All of the masonry work is done and my logs are beautiful. But I won't show you any pictures until the insert is in place.

Like me, you, my dedicated readers, will have to wait a bit longer to see the finished product.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Massacre at the Farm

This week, Myron finished all the stone work and re-chinking of the logs. He is completely done. Hooray!

Ghon survived the Black Thursday/Friday madness! Hooray!

A neighbor's dog killed 9 of our chickens and our rooster. Say what?

Rest in Peace, Bullseye.

About a week or so ago, Ryan was hunting on the hill, rather, attempting to hunt. He later called Ghon and told him that a dog had been zig-zagging over the mountain and through the trees, always in hot pursuit of deer. Much earlier this year, we had lost the majority of our chickens due to a dog of the same breed. We were on alert.

As a side effect of his holiday schedule, Ghon was unable to hunt on Thanksgiving, which is usually an annual event. Despite getting home late last night, he hit the tree stand this early this morning. I missed the texts, but several angry messages made their way through. Ghon had a shot on a 6-point buck, until the dog showed up and spooked the deer. He raced by several times. Ghon left the woods without a shot.

After home for a quick breakfast, Ghon took Jonathan along for manly errands, and Genevieve came with me for our shopping. On the way out, Ghon started introducing himself to our farmhouse neighbors. Ghon found the folks in the first house friendly - and knowledgeable about where the dog lives. Seems this dog is outside all the time and allowed to run free. Another dog in the home is more of an indoor dog, and contained by an electric fence.

Ghon went to the house and found a dead chicken in the front yard. There were feathers abound. Ghon knocked on the door - and no one answered. It was then that Ghon realized that the chickens were gone. His intent was to warn the owners about hunting and trapping on our property. Now, it was game over.

After slight encouragement, Ghon called the Sheriff's Department, who then contacted Animal Control. The officer talked to Ghon, got the scoop, then provided our options. First, we could press charges for the murder of our chickens, go to court and prove to the judge what happened and potentially be reimbursed, or two, have a warning issued to the owner, and if the dog came back, we could take any course of action we see fit.

Ghon chose option two.

The officer contacted the owner, issued the warning, and notified the owner that if the dog came back onto our property, that it could be killed, at no penalty to us. At that point, charges would be filed, and we still could end up reimbursed for our losses. The owner indicated that it would be contained, but according to the officer, seemed ambivalent to the entire situation.

Ghon has since notified Tim and Ryan, that the dog was fair game.

Let's hope that dog stays far away. Our smaller chickens, in their own separate enclosure were unharmed. But they don't lay eggs.

Once the call was made, Ghon and Jonathan had a little one on one time. They went to Gander Mountain, the local sportsman store, swung by Ghon's old store, and had some lunch together. Genevieve and I did all the grocery shopping, along with Pop. Ghon headed back to the woods for a little evening hunt.

The plan had been to start preparing the support timbers so we could relay the floor. I even picked up the finishing nails and nail set kit for Ghon to use. The kids and I grabbed dinner and headed to the farm, but Ghon had headed home. No work tonight. But it's getting closer!

Monday, November 25, 2013

16 degrees

Ghon worked an afternoon-evening shift tonight,  so early this morning he went hunting. 

He was 18ft in the air while it was 16 degrees out. And he wasn't the only one, Ryan was there too. 


Ghon came home and made several cups of coffee.  Took almost an hour before he peeled his coat off. There were multiple layers underneath. And of course, another cup of coffee.

Deer count remains. They all survive another day.

Oh, Myron was there today too. I can't wait to get to the farm tomorrow. He was going to be finishing his work!!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stop. Pallet time.

I find enough time is wasted on laundry, dishes, and Facebook, that I really try to limit my time on Pinterest.   When we first bought the house, I was on quite a bit, pinning neat ideas for decorations, choosing my favorite staircase storage, and finding ways to organize like I've never organized before. More like I just needed a lot of help doing it in the first place.

Recently, I kicked up the Pinterest time wasting habit again. One of the things Ghon does try hard to do is reuse and repurpose materials we have around the farm. And it's an admirable goal. A week or so ago, my pinning gained new purpose with words Ghon spoke when he got home late from work, again, and his reuse philosophy went into overdrive.

I had to go to the farm to drop off the pallets.

What? We have new lumber, old lumber, a crap load of trees, and now you are bringing home pallets? Apparently, Ghon thought that a couple pallets would be a great place, off the ground to store chicken feed on.

So he brought home twenty.

Obviously, this is not twenty pallets. It is what I fear the yard will look like before long.

I've tried to take a walk down memory lane with Ghon, to figure out how the idea of a pallet or two for feed migrated to an entire pickup bed of pallets. He blames me. He must have listened once 8 months ago when I showed him a cool pallet pin.

A week later, he brought home 20 more. We now have 40 pallets, waiting for some love and crafty attention. 

I have not investigated the pallets to see what kind we have. Other than knowing at least one reads "SAMSUNG" down the side. Who knew there were so many pallet types!

I've now been busy creating new pins on a new board on Pinterest. Check them out and let me know what you'd like to see us attempt, or rather what you would like to see Ghon attempt to make. 

Perhaps this diagram, which I like to call "The Anatomy of a Pallet" will come in handy during project time.

In our current neighborhood, someone built a house, a vacation home, entirely out of pallets. Well, except for the door and windows. It was a little sketchy at first - they were doing it all at night with headlamps - and maybe we thought it was an undercover meth lab or distillery. Now that it is complete, it does look kind of cool. I found a picture of a large shed made from pallets (yep, it's pinned!) that I am trying to get Ghon to consider when we rebuild our out buildings.

He had the nerve to tell me it was a lot of pallets.

Dude, they are free. You just brought home 40 in two weeks. I'm sure the store here in town will give you some too. We can start a collection now and be ready for spring.

Who wants to come to a pallet barn raising???

Hunting Season Update:
Tim - 2
Ryan - 1
Ghon - 1

Friday, November 22, 2013

Grab the popcorn

Video time!

Ever wonder just how big the farm is? Or how far away "down the power line" or "up the hill" is?

Now is your chance to see at least part of the property, up close and personal. Put a fan on your face and watch the video Ghon made with his new gadget, the Go Pro Hero 3 camera.

However, if you are prone to motion sickness, I wouldn't recommend viewing this video.

Earlier this week, Ghon and I prepped a ton of wood for splitting. Ghon also used the Go Pro to make a time lapse video of him splitting some of the wood. There is no blood and no shakiness, so motion sickness folks, you are in the clear.
So there you have it, a property tour of Hummingbird Farm!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013



It's amazing how quickly I can spend $3500. We decided to have Chelsea creamated, so I picked her up and took care of that expense, dropped $100 at Wal-mart for a trail camera and accessories and ordered our Yodel. I mean Jotul.

Jotul comes from a Norwegian heritage, which Ghon will not deny is the main reason we looked at the brand. They've been around for over 150 years and have a spectacular reputation. When we started the fireplace and hearth repair, we measured the opening to fit a Jotul. By chance, I happened to find out that one of our friends, a Mom at our daycare, worked at Aqualogix/Unique Heat, a pool and stove shop that is a Jotul distributor. Ghon and I stopped by a couple weeks ago to check out the options. Always out for the bargain, I was able to negotiate a discount for a cash purchase. :)

While the company is based on Norway, there is a manufacturing facility in Maine. The unit we chose is the Rockland,named for the town in Maine. We are getting a plain black surround that is trimmable, just to close off any gap between the stone and insert. We were originally going to get a fancier trim, but the stone is just too pretty to cover!

Once finished spending money like it was free, I headed to the farm to work on the yard, preparing for winter. There are a few things around the yard to pick up before the first snow, and I wanted to trim back the lilac and forsythia bushes. I'd planned to do that on Sunday, but the kids and I had a lazy/work at home day. However, Ghon had other plans for my day.

Cutting down trees and hauling them down the hill to prepare for splitting and stacking. Oh joy.

We used the farm truck to head up the hill. This was the first time I recall riding in it, and I was not thrilled. It is a mess. It is a work truck, yes, but goodness it is a mess. It smells. It has trash in it. The seats have mouse poop on them. Disgusting, but it was sort of inherited with the farm and it runs. Barely. I think there is only one gear that creates forward motion. But, it does what we need it to do, which is drive up hill and haul stuff. Ghon used it to haul all the stone down that was used on the fireplace and hearth.

Before we went up to get to work, I had to take a picture of the plant life growing in the truck bed.

Dodge truck bed - let's add that planter to Pinterest!

I forgot to grab a pic, but the weather has been so crazy here, with fall then winter temps, that our forsythia bushes have actually started blooming again!

Last month, Ghon and I started a wood cutting day, and I used the chainsaw for the first time. We headed back to the same spot, but Ghon manned the chainsaw, and I loaded the truck with what we cut previously.

My lumberjack at work,

If anyone needs a workout, please feel free to visit. It was hard work. Back and forth, back and forth. There were some huge logs to load into the truck. For the first load, I think there was only one that I needed help with.

I couldn't help but take notice of this one log. On one side, there were two rings and the other, only one. Wicked cool how trees grow!

Both sides of the same cut of log.

After the first truck load was filled, then emptied at the bottom of the hill, it was back up to load the wood Ghon cut.
The tree Ghon cut was huge. Loading these suckers into the truck did require a bit more assistance. We rolled quite a few closer to the truck before hoisting them into the truck. One banged me pretty hard in the shin, so as a result, I let out a series of colorful expletives. A few may have slid out lifting them into the truck too.

Two different truck loads - and the pile we accumulated at the end of the day.

The wood pile was near one of Ghon's tree stands, so I attempted to climb it to check out the view. However, the ladder was a bit shaky and I chickened out halfway up.

Later, Ghon showed me up and headed up.

Eventually, I made it. Up two different stands. Ghon thought it was funny, so he kept snapping pictures.

Two different tree stands - enjoying the view.

While I was in the stands, I couldn't help but take a few pictures of the view.

It was pretty breezy on Monday, and at one point, I was able to watch the tree I was sitting in sway. Yeah, I turend around after that. Didn't need to see that for long.

Ghon has now proclaimed that he will have me hunting by the time I turn 45. His claim is that half the battle is climbing into the stand. That I already know how to shoot. The next step would be to hunt. I reminded him that I don't eat deer, so it would not be good for me to hunt - it's not appropriate for my mindset. He countered with the notion that anything I harvested, I could donate to hunters for the homeless or something like that. Yeah, not so sure about this. Not sure I could actually do the deed. I do like pink camo though.

In the end, we loaded the two truck loads of wood, then unloaded. Wednesday, Ghon has off work and will work on splitting and stacking the wood. With the insert ordered, we are hoping by December we can start working in the house, and heating by wood while we are there.

I never got to trim back the bushes. The yard still needs picking up. But hey, I climbed a tree stand and hauled wood. I'm getting there, but still not a country girl! Yodel-ay-ee-oooo!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Ghon and I have a confession to make.

We are horrible chicken owners/farmers. Our chickens run wild and are underfed. They do not have appropriate shelter, especially in these recent cool nights. The lack of proper nutrition keeps them small and under weight.

This week, we were reported for it.

I leave my cell phone in the car when I attend meetings off-site. When I returned on Tuesday, I found a missed call from "Frederick County Non Emergency," the local number for the Sheriff and State Police non emergency issues. We have to call whenever we have a fire at the farm, so I have it stored in my phone. I also have a text message from our friend who works in the dispatch at the barracks. This was not looking good. I relayed part of the message received by text to Ghon, also by text.

Once back in my office, I listened to the message and returned the Deputy's call. Turns out, a lady was driving by our farm that morning and saw our chickens out by the road. She was fearful for the chickens as well as the safety of others. Somehow, she pulled off to the side of the road and took it upon herself to "shoo" our chickens back into our yard. Satisfied with her good deed, she then called to report the issue and notify the authorities that some of the chickens seemed kind of small and undersized.

While I am on the phone with the Deputy, Ghon is texting our neighbor Daniel, who goes and checks on our hens. All of our larger chickens are accounted for, but he didn't see the younger ones. I explained to the Deputy what we knew, and that I would check on them on our way home, as well as letting her know that we do have some younger birds that may appear, well, "small."

I head home and stop to check on the chickens. As Daniel reported, all of the big chickens were in their run and accounted for. I looked next at the younger chicks. The day before, Ghon and Eric moved a small box in the run to give them shelter during the cold nights. There is a heavy piece of plywood covering their coop - and it was all in place. The kicker...the chickens were all safely inside.

This Good Samaritan shooed a flock of wild turkeys into our yard then called the Sheriff's Dept.

Our chickens never run free.

Our chickens are not "small."

There are several flocks of wild turkey at our farm and in the fields surrounding it. Some, have seemed a little tamer than norm. We really think this lady chased wild turkeys in our yard.

She should have just hit one with her car - Thanksgiving dinner could have been free. Instead, she found a place to park her car, on a windy, two lane road with no shoulders, just to keep the "chickens" and other cars safe.

Lord help us all when she sees a "pack" of "large skinny dogs" on the side of the road at night.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Another one bites the dust

After dropping the kids off at daycare Monday, Ghon went hunting for a few hours.

So did his friend Ryan, who shot himself a doe.

Let's see that score card:

Tim - 1
Ryan - 1
Ghon - 0

Now taking bets on when Ghon will harvest his first deer of the season!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Deer history is made

This morning, Ghon got up early to go hunting. He had off today, but the afternoon was going to be spent shooting a wedding.

About 11:30 this morning while we were in town, I received a text from Ghon with a picture of a 9 point deer, shot on what he calls the lower road on the mountain.

According to Ghon, this is the largest deer shot on the property since it's been in the family.

On our way back home,we swung by the farm to see the deer.

Ghon showing Jonathan how to pose for a shot with the deer.

Jonathan was excited to see it, and although a little apprehensive at first about holding it, he also gave it a pet. He had asked me a while ago what they felt like, so this was his chance.

Genevieve was a mess, completely afraid to go near it. The only things she could mutter when not whining was "No closer Mommy!" and "What does a deer say?"

Now, if you are paying close attention, and check out the attire, you'll notice that our friend Tim is the one in camo.

After Ghon got up this morning, he ended up not heading to the farm to hunt, and instead, played around on the internet and edited wedding photos.

He was next to me when he forwarded me the text Tim sent him.

Not only was this the largest deer harvested from the farm, it's Tim's largest deer - ever. Congrats!

Smart technology

I am planning to have a charging station/nook in the kitchen.  We will definitely have these.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Critter Cam

Forty-five acres. Five tree stands. Two game cameras. Yep, hunting season!

Tonight, Ghon took a look at some of the recent pictures his game camera caught. There were pictures of squirrels, crows, of course deer, and these gems.

Five more raccoons to kill! Look at those evil glowing eyes!

Gobble, gobble, gobble! Ghon needs to get us some Thanksgiving dinner!!

It's raining...

Rain in Winchester means work on the fireplace!  Well, since the fireplace is done, it's work on the hearth. I can't wait to go home and see it tonight!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fruit Trees Part 2

November 1 was a hard day. It started off with a little rain and the hard decision that it was time to put Chelsea to rest. We did have a little positive note - rain brought out Myron! Jonathan had a book/costume parade on Friday that I attended in the afternoon. On my way to his school, I saw Myron's truck at the farm. On our way back from the veterinarian's office, Ghon and I stopped for a quick peek before picking up the kids.

The stone work is now all the way up to the ceiling. The fireplace itself is done, and the next step is the hearth and re chinking of the logs. Some prep work was done to the logs Friday as well. It was so exciting to see!

Ghon and I also made a design change that day. We have what we believe is the original mantle in the house and planned to reuse it over the fireplace. Myron included a few small wood sections in the stone work to give us something to secure the mantle to. After seeing the beauty in the stone work, it was really hard to think about covering it up with this huge mantle. Myron felt the same way. We asked if it was too late to remove the wood or lay stone over it, and it's not. We will add a wood ledge mantle rather than a full piece. I suggested that maybe we use the old mantle in our bedroom as a headboard. It's about the right size to slide a queen bed in the opening. We could add a little lighting overhead for reading and still keep the mantle in the house. It might be a plan...

It took almost a month, but on Sunday, I finally planted the ten new fruit trees that we purchased through Cindy. Over the last week or two, Ghon managed to get 6 out of 10 holes dug. Last weekend, I bought all of the soil, compost, and mulch. Ghon had to work all weekend, and with colder weather coming, I was determined to get the trees in this weekend.

I really don't consider the end of Daylight Savings Time as gaining an hour of sleep. It's more like adding an hour to the day, for one day. Sure, I was able to lounge a little longer in bed, but when you are up and everyone has a good breakfast and is dressed by 9 - on a Sunday - you can get a lot more accomplished.

After a little more house chores, the kids and I layered up and headed to the farm to "play in dirt" and plant trees.

Planting trees is only so much fun to a five and three year old. Playing in dirt is much more fun. It's all about presentation.

We visited the chickens first, giving them some vegetable and fruit scraps then headed to the orchard. I started with the six holes Ghon dug out.

Desperate to help, Jonathan wanted to help with the bags, so I showed him how to open them with a shovel. Great way for a five year old to expend a little energy, swinging and whacking at a bag. He became the official bag opener for the rest of the day.

Jonathan and Genevieve have matching kid size weapons, I mean shovels.

First step was to lug the 30lb bags of wet soil to the hole, then a 20lb bag of compost, and finally a bag of mulch. We used about half a bag of compost mixed with a 1/4 bag of tree and shrub soil to line the bottom of the hole. Once the tree was in place. I used another 1/4 bag of the soil to fill around it, then added back the soil that came out of the hole. Where Jonathan was my bag opener, Genevieve is my "patter." Her job was to stomp around the tree to tamp down the soil to make sure it was good and tight.

Once the dirt was opened, we mixed dirt and compost in a bin.

Once the tree was happy in the ground, I dumped an entire bag of mulch around the tree. Repeat this process 5 more times.

After the first two trees, the kids were more interested in the playing dirt part of planting trees. No big deal. We all had a great time. Jonathan brought his new Leonardo Ninja Turtle with him, so they played many rounds of "treasure hunt" burying the turtle and digging for treasure to find him. They sat in the holes and begged to be buried. Occasionally they came by to help me push dirt into a hole, but always came to do their bag opening and patting jobs.

My cuties. They played quite well together and had a great time making up all types of games.

I had left all of the bags in a long line, some stacked, at the bottom of the orchard last week. The bags became the next source of entertainment, as they ran and jumped up and down the piles. I requested several times that they stop laying on the bags and walking on each other, but they didn't heed that warning, and instead, giggled the entire time. We were all filthy when we left, but it's just dirt and washes off. They had a good time playing outside and I got some playtime and work in. Who can argue with that?

At one point, I did have to ask the kids to be quiet. Ghon would have been so proud of me. While preparing a hole for the tree, I heard leaves crunching. I listened for a bit to make sure it wasn't the kids, then scanned the woods for movement. After a minute or so, I found a small flock of turkeys walking through the woods! They were too well camouflaged for the kids to spot. We went back to work, then about half an hour later, they were back! I don't think the kids ever spotted them, but they definitely could hear them.

Our truck had a big load of trash for our local transfer station, and we had to get there before 3:00. I checked the time on my pedometer and realized it was 2:15. I wanted to get rid of as much trash as possible, so I quickly started remulching all of the trees already in the orchard so I could throw all of the bags away. Then I realized that my clock hadn't been set back yet and I had a little more time. Once I was done, I pulled the kids away from their dirt fun for a trash run then home for lunch.

We still had 4 more trees to plant, but their interest in going to back to the farm waned. With the time change, it was getting darker earlier. Thankfully, BJ came to visit, and after the kids asked her to come too and she talked Pop into it, they were ready to go!

Thanks to BJ and Pop, we got the last four trees in as the sun went down. The last two we were aided by the headlights on Pop's truck. I was so glad to get them in - the temperature hit freezing last night and I'd hate to lose the trees to the cold. The soil I was using was made for trees and shrubs and is supposed to feed for 6-9 months. I hope it holds true!

There is rain in the forecast for Thursday. Fingers crossed it does rain so the trees can have a drink and Myron will come back to the house.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Yesterday we lost our sweet Chelsea, a Lab & Akita mix. We adopted her over 13 years ago, when she was just over a year old. Fourteen years is a long life for a dog her size. Her hearing and sight were declining, her hips getting sore, and she was losing control of her bowels. Thursday,  her hips gave out, and she couldn't walk anymore. It was a very hard decision to make, but euthanasia was the best choice for her. Ghon and I were with her to the end. My eyes are still sore from all the crying.  I took these pictures the day she died. I had the kids give her lots of love before they left that morning.  The picture of her I took a few minutes before her last breath.
Rest in peace my sweet Chelsea. You were my first dog as an adult,  and you will always have a special place in my heart. You were patient, you were loving, and so in tune with our emotions.  We will miss having you around.

Chelsea Eckley - June 2, 1999 - November 1, 2013
Genevieve & Chelsea her last morning with us.

Jonathan giving Chelsea some love her last morning with us.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pardon the interruption

October 5, 2013 - January 4, 2014

If you have a hunter in your life, you know what I'm talking about. Life as you know it ends as life for the hunter begins.

Here in the territory known as "West of the Blue Ridge", Ghon's hunting season lasts three whole months. Three months of camouflage, doe in heat, guns and ammo, bows and arrows, tree stands, target practice, early mornings and outdoor TV shows.

Welcome to my Hell.

For the next three months, almost everything becomes second to chasing tail. Whitetail that is. Does and bucks. 

Of course, I knew this 18 years ago when we started dating. Ghon would disappear for a week in November to hunt with friends. Maybe a day here and there.

A few years ago, Ghon starting hunting on the farm property again, just as he did many years ago as a kid. The pain was getting up early enough to drive 90 minutes down from our house in Frederick to get in the woods before sunrise.

But now, we live 6 minutes from the farm. Ghon can wake up, get dressed, grab a coffee, and be at the farm in less than 20 minutes. He has five tree stands hung across the top of the hill. It's much easier to hunt these days.

Like today, when Ghon was going to fix the broken sign, feed the chickens, move the old refrigerator out of the trash pile to attempt a repurposing project, and plant our fruit trees. I bought 18 bags of mulch and 10 bags of compost and dirt for them yesterday.  Take a guess what he accomplished.

He hunted, bought some hunting supplies and chicken food, then hunted some more.

Oh, he also made this video of a deer he shockingly, did not shoot.

From my perspective, there are many more negatives than positives to deer season.

  • Positives
    • Hunting relaxes Ghon.
    • Dead deer in the fall are unable to eat my vegetables in spring and summer.
Yeah, that's all I got.
  •  Negatives
    • Hunting frustrates Ghon if he doesn't get a shot at a deer.
    • I don't like deer meat.
    • Hunting season distracts Ghon from other home/farm projects.
    • Too much hunting TV.
    • Somehow I end up helping Ghon hang the deer so he can skin it.
    • That same dead deer hangs outside my bedroom window.
    •  Yet another load of laundry - camo makes it's own load.
See, many more negatives than positives.  But I suppose a happy Ghon is better than a sad Ghon.

Perhaps I should start doing some more rain dances. Ghon doesn't hunt much in the rain, and the stone mason does work at our house!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013


First there was Telzon. Now, there's Cowgirl.

Don't get me wrong, I like Telzon, but I think Cowgirl is pretty cool. She's feisty. She growls at the other cats when we feed them. As soon as the food hits the bowl, she's throwing her paw in the bowl to keep the other cats away - and well, growls at them.

It cracks me up.

Of course, not knowing cats very well, this could be an awful trait to have. But I think it's awesome. I see a mouse killer. A no nonsense attitude.

Please tell me if I am wrong and shouldn't love on this cat. Because she does let me pick her up and hold her and scratch her.

The kids and I did find some collars last week, so I tagged her and Telzon the next day. She didn't have a name until yesterday, when Genevieve tried to declare her as "her kitty." I asked her what she wanted to call her, and rather than coming up with a name like "Doody" or "Cat" or even "Kitty", she declared Cowboy.

Yes, Cowboy.

We think the cat is a girl cat, so I suggested we call her Cowgirl. Fortunately, she agreed.

The name really struck home with me. About two weeks ago, we lost a friend of ours, Jackie Koltz. It was very sudden and unexpected. I've known Jackie for about 23 years. She's celebrated high school and college graduations with me and came to our wedding. She was a chili cook, and cooked under the name Cowgirl Chili. She was full of personality. She was caring and very loving. She was feisty. She was just a great person to know. I will always remember learning how to do the "Achy Breaky Heart" dance with Jackie when I was a kid, and for her teaching me other line dances. I admired her for tackling an addiction and overcoming it. I loved her for accepting me into her extended family. She was part of my village as a kid. Her husband, Roger, an awesome man in his own right, was one of the people I was hoping to see last weekend when the migraine knocked me out.

While I was heartbroken when I found out Jackie died, last night, in my dreams, it really hit me. I suppose it's my own mental preparation for tomorrow, when we will be at a chili cook-off that she had been registered to compete in with Roger. In my dream, I got to the event, saw the Cowboy and Cowgirl chili set up and broke down crying with another set of our friends, the Bauers. I woke up with tears in my eyes, that's how real it was. Tomorrow morning will be intense for sure when I see Roger. It will no longer be Roger and Jackie, and that takes some real getting used to.

Our favorite Cowgirl - Jackie Koltz

When Genevieve suggested Cowboy out of nowhere, and I countered with Cowgirl, Jackie had immediately entered my mind. It may seem odd to name a cat in honor of a friend, but I know Jackie enjoyed her pets, and again, they are both feisty.

I'll miss you Jackie. You were one of a kind and taken too soon.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Welcoming Fall - with a little help from our village

It really does take a village to raise children. From the smallest encounters to use as teaching moments, to the people that they interact with on a regular basis, I believe that my kids are the people they are as a result of their environment just as much or more than their genetics. Last weekend, the kids and I officially started fall and Halloween activities, and our village was with us every step of the way.

Saturday morning, after Tae Kwon Do and a haircut for Jonathan, we headed over to Marker Miller Orchard for some apple picking. We love going to Marker Miller. They have a great play area, a free (music to mom's ears...) cow train ride, great pick your own fruit, a hayride, and a wonderful store and bakery. I found out that the kid's friend Peyton was there with her mom, and family. Peyton's sister and brother are Aly and Travis, who have helped us out at the farm or watched the kids for us. Their grandma, Donna, is their regular daycare/school teacher. Along with the kids Mom Karen, and Pawpaw Rick, they are a big part of the kids' village. I knew Jonathan and Genevieve would be excited to see them all, but kept it a secret just in case they were not there once we arrived.

Fortunately - they were. The kids had a ton of fun playing at the playground with each other, and riding the cow train. My two will ride the train endlessly if I allow them.

After the cow train ride, our friends headed out and we went off to pick our apples. With two eager apple pickers, it didn't take us long to fill our 1/2 bushel bag.

After expending all our energy playing and picking apples, we re-energized with apple cider donuts and finished our running with the dreaded grocery shopping.

The neighborhood we live in is wooded, no street lights, and does not really lend itself to trick or treating. Each year, they host "trunk or treat" at the entrance of the neighborhood by our mailboxes. Cars park in the office parking lot and hand out candy out of the back of their cars. Last year they added a few activities to the event. The kids were super excited about the new/used costumes I snagged for them that morning.

My own Incredible kids!

We arrived a little early and completed the games, trick or treated at all the cars there, then I settled the kids into our truck to hand out candy to the other kids. We grabbed a hot dog and headed home!

Sunday we had another big day planned. Thank you Groupon for a great deal at a pumpkin farm in Middletown MD. Plans included meeting my best friend and her family at the farm for a corn maze, pumpkin picking and lunch, then heading to Culpepper VA to visit some friends at a chili cookoff. Unfortunately, halfway through the corn maze, I got a headache. Side effect of my new glasses? The weather? Who knows. But by the time we were done picking pumpkins, I had a full blown migraine.

Migraines and I don't mix well. When I get a migraine, I often enter vomitville and get sick for hours. I took some medicine with no relief. I ended up cutting the petting zoo area short with the kids and started home.  My 90 minute drive home took 2.5 hours. I still called my Dad and had him come get the kids from me so I could try to relax in the car before driving the last half hour. I begged Ghon to come home on time from work to take care of the kids. I was toast. I took more medicine. I sat in the dark in my room with a cold washcloth for two hours before I was able to come sit with the kids and Ghon at dinner.

For those of you that ask how I do it, and how do I have the time to do everything we do - it's because I have a good village to support me. Between friends and spare eyes watching the kids at our local orchard or friends and family helping with the kiddos when I'm down and recovering, it takes more than just me to raise these two awesome kids. Thank you to my village - I'm glad to have all of you in my life! And the migraine is proof, that once in a while, even Mom needs to slow down and take a break.

By the way, have you clicked on the Top Mommy Blog badge lately? It's over there on the right - and you can click it every day if you'd like. :) Thanks!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Becoming Telzon

Never would have thought it would be this easy to like a cat.

I mentioned that Telzon has a look-a-like sibling. Well, seems there are actually three that look the same. When Eric came over last Monday, Ghon beckoned the cats over by shaking their bag of treats. Six of them showed up. There is a noisy black one, two black with white paws, Telzon, and two that look like Telzon. Seriously, it was a little hard to tell them apart. We have to try to scoop them up and look for the black arm band or the one with more white on it's leg. I'm pretty sure Telzon is the smallest, but then again, who knows. The shy cat is warming up to us, so before where it was easy to scoop Telzon up, and know it was her, it's not so easy anymore.

With all the cats swarming, we gave them a few treats. They ran up and down the porch steps and attacked each other, vying for treats.

Ghon laughed at them. He thought cats playing were cute. Gasp!

Eric and I grabbed a few cats trying to find Telzon, and then I snapped this picture. I find it quite priceless.

Yes, that is Eric and Ghon looking like they are about to perform a satanic ritual rather than loving up on the cats.

We've thought about buying a collar for Telzon so we will always know which one she is. Silly, isn't it? I guess that's just how we roll!

Last night the kids and I stopped to pick up a collar for the cat. Wal-Mart had one. One cat collar and it was too big. Rather than by a collar then, we picked up a cat toy.

You read that right, I bought the cat a toy. It is a little mouse on a string attached to a wand. The mouse makes "realistic" mouse sounds and also lights up for nighttime outdoor play. I wanted something that looked a mouse to keep those mousing skills sharp. The light up feature was a bonus. Telzon does come to visit us during the day, but many of her visits are at night.

Could this cat be turning us into cat people??

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rain & Stone

Rain is liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then precipitated—that is, become heavy enough to fall under gravity.

Guess when I told the kids rain was water falling from the sky, I gave a highly scientific answer.

According to Jim's Weather Station, (seriously, I just Googled rain and found this) Winchester VA has already received 6.41 inches of rain this month. That, in my opinion, sounds like a lot of rain. It's raining now. It rained all last weekend. It better not rain on Sunday, the kids and I have outdoor plans with my BFF and her family. I am so done with rain. It rained four days straight last week.

The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sure, Henry, unless I have plans.

Like milk does a body good, rain does a farm good. It nourishes the garden. Rain gives the trees a much needed drink. Rain keeps the grass green. It drowns snakes. (A girl can dream...)

Like milk cripples a lactose intolerant person, rain cripples progress at the farm. Can't mow or rake the leaves. Sucks trying to dig holes and plant new trees in the orchard in a monsoon. More leaves and sticks fall off the old walnut tree and clog the gutters. The gutters leak all over the place, regardless.

Seriously, ever been to the zoo or an amusement park with the mist tent or archway? Imagine that turned up to full blast and that's what it's like walking in the front door of the farm house right now.

The silver lining on the big ol' raincloud over Winchester? It's our stone mason. He has a ton of outside work. As he put it, lots of folks are suddenly deciding to seal up their chimneys or repair porches as they get ready for the colder months. That kind of work requires no droplets precipitating from the sky. Work at the farmhouse is perfect for days water meets gravity. It's inside work. Sure, he might have to dodge the doorway mister, but the rest of his time, it's spent dry inside. He's been able to get two full days in at the house so far, working repointing and repairing the chimney. All of the stone for the fireplace is coming from the property, and since the selection of stone was dwindling, Ghon got more, in the rain, last Sunday. Eric came down on Monday, and they both did more stone hunting.

(Excuse the picture quality. Ghon knows he needs to take pictures of everything - he was a good boy, but the cell phone quality was lacking in these pictures.)

Stone quarry identified.

Stone uncovered.

The crater left behind.

Eric and the loaded truck.

Stone anyone?

Myron should have plenty of stone to choose from.

It's been super exciting seeing the fireplace progress. We needed the concrete poured to get to this step. Once the fireplace is done, we can work on reinstalling the wood floor. After the floor is in, well, then we get to start framing in the room. I. Can't. Wait.

Perhaps it can rain a little more tonight. But not this weekend. The rain dance stops at noon tomorrow.