Family, legacies, memories and more barn repairs

Last week you saw some of the repairs that we did this fall on the barn’s foundation. Today, I’m sharing some other work that we ended up doing on the siding.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

It took four cousins, two very tall ladders, a pile of lumber, hundreds of nails (and we still ran out), and a few other assorted other tools and supplies.

We replaced missing boards, renailed loose boards and closed a trap door that had swung open a couple of years ago. It might seem odd that Matt and I left the door open for a couple of years. However, it was at the peak of the gable, and the climb was a bit daunting. One of my cousins brought a climbing harness and ropes, so he went up.

Climbing inside the barn

Working together felt so good. Not just because of how generous and kind and caring our family is. And not because it was a chance to balance Mama-me with DIY-me. What was best about the few hours we worked together that morning was how strongly I felt my Dad.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

All of my cousins worked with my Dad at various points. We know how to do so many things because he taught us. We also know how to work together because we all learned from the same person.

There was such a great rhythm between all of us as we talked things through, divided up the tasks and did the work. We trusted each other to make the right cuts, choose the right materials and hold the ladder steady no matter what–even when it was fully extended and nearly vertical.

Patching wood siding on a barn

Patching wood siding on a barn

“You happy?” was always my Dad’s line when he and I were working together. That meant, “Is your end good? Can I nail/screw/glue/attach mine now?”

A short while into the work, my cousin at the top of the ladder called to the guy at the bottom, “You happy?”

Hearing that, I was definitely happy.

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An evening walk

Most of the time, walking with Baxter is a highlight of my day. I love getting outside. The quiet of the farm and the dog clear my mind or give me space to think things through. Usually, Ellie is with us and we savour the farm, the three of us together.

Like me, Sarah in Illinois is trying to slow down and be in the moment. Her time with her favourite furry fellow, Blitz, is special for her too.

The older I get, the more I try to find ways to improve myself. One way I do this is to try to slow down and appreciate things around me. Especially everyday things that I tend to take for granted.

One thing that I realize I am very lucky to have is a nice quiet safe road to take Blitz on walks.

This road is mainly used for field access so most times of the year it is untravelled.

I take a leash with me just in case but for the most part Blitz is free to roam. There are always smells for him to check out.

I got in a great habit of going on a 20-30 minute walk every day after work. However, now that time changed and our daylight has shortened, we don’t get to go nearly as often.

I sure do miss those sunsets!

Blitz and I will both be anxiously awaiting spring and longer daylight hours.

Do you have a favorite walking spot? Do you dread the dark days of the winter months? Do you take the time to watch sunsets/sunrises?

This looks like a great spot to spend time with Blitz, Sarah. We do road walks occasionally at the farm, but our road is pretty busy, so usually we walk in our fields–not a hardship at all!

I find that one “bright” spot of shorter days is that I catch more sunrises and sunsets.

Barn repairs – Starting at the bottom

Barn

When we were looking for our farm, I think our real estate agent started to think we were buying a barn rather than a house. I love the beams and the stones and the history, and we fell in love with pretty much every barn we saw.

Fortunately, our barn is in pretty good shape. In fact, previous owners had done quite a bit of work on it–more of an investment than we would ever make.

But we had one issue come up–or down. Some time in the spring, a section of the barn foundation caved in.

Collapsed barn foundation

The stone foundation is double layered, and the outer layer under one of the windows fell down.

The inner layer stayed in place, but as I looked at the wall and thought about fixing it, I came up with a new plan. Take down the inner layer, remove the window and make a door.

The cave-in happened in the corner where I want to put our coop, so having a door would make accessing the birds a whole lot easier.

But first we had to access the barn. We’ve not done a good job of yard maintenance around the barn, and we had all kinds of trees and brush. Matt’s Dad brought his chainsaw and spent a day clearing the mess.

Clearing vegetation from around the barn

Then our mason was able to remove the stones and pour a new threshold for us.

Matt, Ellie and I all put our handprints in the cement (then Ralph and Baxter trampled all over them to add a few prints of their own. I retrowelled the cement and we smushed our hands in again). I love so much that our prints will be here, part of this farm and this beautiful old barn.

Handprints in cement

My brother and sister-in-law came for a visit, so I took advantage of the extra help and my brother and I removed the window and framed up the opening.

Building a door in a barn foundation

Then the mason returned and rebuilt the wall up to the new jamb. This is the same mason that built our fireplace, so he’s very skilled in working with stone and enjoyed the puzzle of fitting everything together. (These pictures give you an idea of the width of these fabulous walls. The jamb is a 2×10, and it’s just about half the wall.)

Repairing a stone barn foundation

Repairing a stone barn foundation

We haven’t figured out the door itself yet. The opening is blocked with plywood, which will likely stay up for the winter. Next year, we’ll build a door. I haven’t quite made up my mind whether it will be sliding or swinging. The opening is very large, so whatever door we have will be heavy.

I often feel that we are stewards of this property, and I feel the same about the barn. It existed long before we arrived at this farm. And hopefully, with a bit of care from us, it will exist long after.

Odds & sods

Happy last week of November. I hope everyone had a nice weekend and a great Thanksgiving.

I know everyone always says that time flies, but I am seriously amazed that it’s already the end of the month–and one month from now will be Boxing Day. Hard to believe.

I’ve really been trying to be in the moment over the past few months and not look too far ahead. I want to savour my time with Ellie and Matt. It’s not about what’s next. It’s about what we’re doing now and enjoying it. Admittedly, life isn’t always enjoyable, but moments are temporary. If Ellie needs to be held a little while longer, I’ll give her that, because someday she won’t want to sit with Mama.

Speaking of the passage of time, our baby is 9 months old now. She’s been out as long as she was in. Ellie shared her 9 month birthday with what would have been my paternal grandmother’s 104th birthday, which made the day even more special. We marked the occasion by taking another photo of our girl with her tractor.

Ellie sitting on her tractor

Looking back over the rest of the month, here is a round-up of some things that have caught my eye.

Kitchen refresh by The Handmade Home

A really smart kitchen refresh

A checklist for making green home improvements

I’ve realized I have many feelings about names… and apparently others do too

How dog agility applies to all dog training

The world is better than we think (my book recommendation from Obama)

Worrying is praying for stuff you don’t want

Say yes to your life. Because… this is it.

My writing elsewhere:

How we care for our barn cat

Livestock Guardian Dogs – An Introduction

Why does my dog refuse to walk with other people?

We’re gearing up for a busy week here. We have a bunch of appointments, including a doctor visit for Ellie and her last swimming lesson. We’ve loved swimming and will be buying a pass to go on our own until Ellie’s eligible for the next level of lessons.

We’re also preparing to host some of Matt’s extended family for our annual month before Christmas party this weekend. It’s always so nice to see everyone and spend time together. While Christmas has obviously already hit the blogosphere, this party is my cue to start decorating and start getting my head into the season.

What’s ahead for you this week? Are you in Christmas mode yet? Or are you, like me, trying to live in the moment?

Green eggs in Illinois

When I first learned there were chickens that laid green eggs, I immediately made up my mind that one day I would have some. Of course, our chickens are still awhile away. So for now, I’m continuing to live vicariously through Sarah in Illinois and her expanding flock–which now includes a green-egg-laying hen.

In my last post I introduced my new chickens and mentioned that while I was expecting to get three Leghorns, I got one surprise Easter Egger. If you remember I was waiting patiently to find out what color egg it was going to lay.

I should have emphasized to Steve how excited I was and how closely I was watching every day to see what was laid. Because one night I got home late and Steve collected the eggs for me. He said nothing about them. The next morning I was opening the carton and this is what I saw.

I texted him at work and asked why he didn’t tell me that we there was a green egg! His reply was, “oh, there was?” He clearly was not as excited as I was.

A couple days later I gathered my second green egg!

The green eggs are appearing a little more regularly now and you can really see how green they are when sitting next to the pure white Leghorn eggs.

I just can’t get over how beautiful the selection of eggs is.

Nature really does have the most beautiful palette.

That is a beautiful bowl of eggs, Sarah. What a treat to have that in your own backyard.

Family photo shoot at the farm

Family photo in front of the barn
There’s a very special project at the farm that I have wanted to do for years. A family photo shoot.

Aside from our wedding, Matt and I don’t have any professional photos. Since moving to the farm, I’ve wanted to have a photographer come here to this place that’s so special to us.

With the addition of Ellie, my desire for photos only increased. So for my birthday in September, I reached out to a local photographer and booked a shoot.

Matt and Ellie

We kept things fairly simple. Just a half hour. Outside at the farm. Wearing our regular clothes (although this was Ellie’s first time in jeans and I did put on makeup).

Me and Ellie

Top on my wishlist was a photo of all of us–Ralph, Baxter, Ellie, Matt and me. But I wasn’t sure we could make it happen. Ralph was the wildcard because she’s occasionally not around. But as soon as the photographer arrived, Ralph came out of the barn, tossed her head and struck a pose–basically saying, “I’m ready for my close-up.”

Family photo in front of the barn

At one point the photographer suggested some shots of us sitting on the driveway. My reaction was to smile, and she said, “What? Is that weird?” And I said, “Having a long driveway was one of my requirements when we were looking for a farm. So having photos done on the driveway is actually perfect.”

For Bax though, the driveway photos were a bit weird. He sat slightly behind the photographer off to the side for awhile, and then he slowly moved closer and closer. Until, “This sitting on the driveway thing is weird, but if this is what we’re doing, okay.” (Aside. This sequence resulted in my favourite photos from the whole shoot. Matt’s facial expression is so natural and so happy. Please ignore my awkward, not at all natural, attempt to lay my head on his shoulder.)

Baxter photobombing our family photo shoot

Hiring a professional is so worth it. She understands lighting and setting and composition and equipment. It’s very different from getting a family member or friend with a “good camera” to come over and take some pictures. Plus, photographing a dog, cat, baby and two self-conscious adults is not an easy task.

(Our photographer was Ashley of One Love Storytelling Photography. Her storytelling approach resonated with me so much. You can check out her site to see wonderful photos of other beautiful families.)

Family photo shoot at the farm

These photos are something I know we will always treasure. It is so special to mark this time in our lives and have this record of all of us together.

Remembering

Ellie and I at the Remembrance Day ceremony

Before my Dad died, maybe even before I was pregnant with Ellie, I said to Matt one night how sad I was that if we ever had children they would never know their grandfather. My Dad’s Parkinson’s was progressing, and coupled with dementia he wasn’t himself anymore. Matt said, “There is more than one way to know someone.” My wise husband.

So I make sure to tell Ellie about her grandfather and teach her some of the things that my Dad taught me.

Today is an important day for our family and part of the tradition I want to pass on to Ellie. Remembrance Day.

This is the day when I think about my grandfather, another man that I want Ellie to know.

The annual Remembrance Day service at the legion in my hometown is something I shared with my Dad every year. It was different this year.

My Dad was not there in person.

But we went with Ellie. And we talk to her over the day about her grandfather and great grandfather. We will carry on the tradition with her.

I feel my Dad’s spirit every day. So he was there still. And so was Ellie.

New chickens (again) in Illinois

If you follow Sarah in Illinois on Instagram, you might have seen that some new feathered ladies joined her flock. Sarah seems to be on a quest to have all the chickens–or all the eggs in every colour possible. Read on to meet her new hens.

Back in June, my cousin Emma sent me a message with a picture of her new chicks.

In the message she said that 3 of them were Leghorns if I wanted them. I had mentioned to her over the last several months that I wanted a few Leghorns, but I didn’t want to raise them from chicks. Since she was raising some for herself she said adding a couple Leghorns wasn’t a big deal.

She sent me updates occasionally.

And two weeks ago I went to pick them up.

The 45 minute drive home was either very stressful or very relaxing because one of them laid an egg in the dog crate!

I had everything planned out for the integration into the flock. I divided the run so that the chickens could see and smell each other but not hurt each other.

Then I planned to put them in the coop inside the dog crate every evening.

Well I didn’t make the divider in the run tall enough because Blitz ran towards the chickens and scared one over the divider.

I could have immediately grabbed it and put it back in the separate section, but I decided to wait to see how the chickens would react. So what did they do? All seven chickens ran into the coop and hid from this new smaller chicken.

I had a couple days vacation, so I made a point to go out several times a day to make sure that none of the chickens was injured.

The first night the new chickens roosted up on the dog crate opposite the roost.

After a few days they all started roosting together.

I can’t say that after two weeks all of the chickens are “friends,” but honestly the integration has gone really smoothly. I do occasionally see one chicken picking on another, but the new chickens are very fast so they spend a lot of time playing hide and seek.

And it turns out, one of the chickens is not a Leghorn. It looks like it might be an Easter Egger! Instead of yellow legs like Leghorns have:

It has grayish-green legs.

What does this mean? Well, to me absolutely nothing. I just think of it as a bonus. Easter Eggers can actually lay almost any color egg depending on what they have been bred with, so for me it is like waiting for Christmas morning to see what happens. The two Leghorns have been laying tiny little pure white eggs. As they get older the eggs will get bigger.

Two years ago I thought I would like to raise chickens and started with 4. I now have 10 and I can’t say that I’m done. I’m thinking next I will add Araucana–they lay blue eggs! 😉

Chickens seem to work out very well for you, Sarah. I’m glad to hear the birds integrated so smoothly. It’s great to see how much you enjoy your flock and their eggs. I admit, I love the idea of having Araucanas someday, so I say go for it!

A baby, a cat and a peck of potatoes

Basket of potatoes

Against all odds, we have a harvest this year.

The best description for the garden this year was neglected. Back in the spring, Matt planted some potatoes. That was about the last time that we went into the garden. His parents took pity on us and weeded a few sections. But I had given up on picking anything this year.

Then one grey afternoon a few weeks ago, Matt decided to see what he could find.

Digging for potatoes

Accompanied by Ralph, the potato sniffing cat, and Ellie, the potato inspecting baby, they uncovered some bounty.

Ralph looking for potatoes

(Despite appearances, the baby is not freaked out by the potato.)

Baby admiring a freshly harvested potato

We celebrated the harvest with breakfast for dinner–complete with super fresh hashbrowns.

White and purple potatoes on the cutting board

There weren’t as many as we’ve had in past years, but there are enough for a few meals and some seed potatoes for next year. Because we’re not giving up. We will try again next year and hope that we have more potatoes than weeds this time around. Maybe we’ll put the cat and the baby to work earlier in the season next time.

Odds & sods

We’re at the last post of October.

Are you ready for Hallowe’en? Our Hallowe’en is going to be pretty low key. We’re having dinner with my sister and her kids, and then our little goblin will be going to bed at her regular time while her cousins go trick or treating (candy is definitely not on Ellie’s safe foods list).

Our road is not safe for walking, especially after dark, and even if it was the scarcity of houses makes the effort not worth the return for trick or treaters.

A highlight of our celebrations will be admiring cute pumpkin bum.

Jack o' lantern on Ellie's bum

I’m wrapping up the month by sharing another round-up of some of the odds and sods that I’ve been thinking about, that have caught my eye or that we’ve been working on around the farm.

I love discovering new blogs through the One Room Challenge. This season there is a great diversity of projects.  Here are a few that I’m following. Are you participating? Or watching any rooms in particular?

  • House of Brinson – A very old house, with very serious issues.
  • Old Home Love – A fancy room for a little girl.
  • SG Style – A small space. So much DIY.
  • Jewels at Home – I was drawn in less by the project (a teen boy’s room) than I was by the blog itself: a woman named Julie who is using the same blog template as me. I found my blog twin!
  • Schroedl Interiors – A slightly quirky room that’s going to become a super cute library (with fun whale wallpaper)

I’m still sorting out my daily Mom style. I try to make a point every day of doing my hair (to justify paying for my haircut) and putting on earrings (don’t feel dressed without them). Beyond that, my uniform is jeans and T-shirts (or turtlenecks as the weather gets colder) with the occasional button down or drapey cardigan.

I’d like to feel a little more polished (although perhaps not as fancy as the picture above). Two new-ish to me blogs and one old favourite are helping me find style inspiration. What helps you feel prepared for the day?

  • I devoured Emily’s blog when I first found it. I love her style, her sewing skills and how she thinks and writes about it all. I’ve read a lot about wardrobes and how to make your clothes work together, but her approach of thinking of clothes as a collection was a lightbulb moment for me.
  • Putting Me Together has made me think about some of my clothes in different ways and try new colour or shape combinations. It’s a great source for casual Mom-wear that still looks put-together.
  • Another ah-ha moment for me was listening to Sherry talk about her wardrobe (aka uniform) on Young House Love Has A Podcast. Her GPA analogy and wanting to fill her closet only with straight A clothing clicked for me. (She also wrote a post.) I started the closet clean out and quickly filled a garbage bag. I have more to go, but I feel like I’ve started to boost my GPA.

Gerrard Gethings portrait

I’ve kept journals for a very long time. They’ve taken different forms over the years and for the past little while this blog has been my journal. At the end of September I started using a pen and notebook again. I was inspired after hearing about The Kindness Journal on In The Storyhouse Podcast (episode 15, if you’re interested). The prompts are quick and truly help me to focus on the good things that happened each day. Do you journal?

My writing elsewhere:

Have a good week, everyone. If you’re celebrating Hallowe’en, have fun, be safe and enjoy your treats.