Tiling the east field

Our farm came with six fields, but in the years that we’ve lived here, only five have been in use. The far east field has been “in rehab.” In fact, it’s also known as the rehab field. (This post shows a bird’s eye view of the property.)

The field is boggy with two marshy areas, one of which is right in the middle. It’s hilly and on some of the slopes the soil has washed away and the ground is very stony.

Green marshy area in the middle of the east field

The farmer who rents our fields told us that several years before we bought the farm, one of the previous owners brought in some dirt and regraded the field, and after that it didn’t drain properly. In the time that we’ve been here, the farmer has augmented the soil with manure and tried various measures to drain the field. Nothing has worked.

In fact, he’s gotten more and more frustrated as his equipment gets stuck in the mud and the field remains unuseable.

This view shows the east field and the big field from the same vantage point a few years ago. You can see that the big field is a lot healthier looking than the east.

East field

Big field

Every year we talk about tiling the field, and this spring our farmer decided to go ahead.

Note I wrote tiling, not tilling.

Tiling involves running weeping tile throughout the field underground to drain the water.

Our farmer hired a drainage contractor for this project. The first step was to survey the fields using GPS to map out the best drainage path.

Surveying the field by ATV to prepare for tiling

Then the big stuff showed up. A backhoe, bulldozer, a drainage plow and biiiiig rolls of weeping tile.

Baxter surveys the backhoe

Baxter standing in front of a spool of weeping tile

The plow was a really cool piece of equipment. It was a large tractor on caterpillar tracks with a spindle to carry the giant spool of tile. The plow cut into the ground and fed the tile into the trench and filled it back in all in one pass.

Drainage plow

Even after living in farm country for seven years, the novelty of farm equipment has not worn off for me. I marvel over the tractors, the combines, the plows and all the rest. So I loved seeing the drainage equipment at work. The maneuverability and power of the tractors was awesome. They went through the water, up hills, through trees–nothing stopped them.

Baxter watching the drainage plow tiling the field

Tiling the field

The crew laid tile all through the east field, a bit into the big field and drained it all through the front field and into the creek that runs across the front of the property.

Weeping tile

Field drainage tile flowing into a creek

There is still work to be done before the field is finally out of rehab. There’s a big section where top soil was scraped off, and it needs to be pushed back. As well, the trenches and ridges from the plow need to be leveled.

Field after tiling before levelling

Ridges in the field after tiling

The ground is still a little squishy in spots, as you can see by my boots (please give me props for not tipping over and dumping the baby into the mud).

Standing in the mud

But the tile is a huge step towards hopefully making the field more useable.

Do you have any muddy spots at your house? Or have you spotted any cool equipment at work? Is part of your property also “in rehab”?

 

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Odds & sods

Happy last week of May, everyone. And happy Memorial Day to my American readers.

This is one of my favourite times of year. The farm is so, so green and everything looks nice–wild, but nice. We’re trying to stay on top of mowing and weeding, and for once I feel like I’ve been making progress in the gardens. Between a pregnancy and a baby, we have about two years of neglect to overcome. But fortunately, the baby loooooves being outside and can entertain herself a little bit.

My monthly Odds & Sods post took a break last month thanks to the One Room Challenge, but I’m back this month to share some of the interesting links I’ve come across recently:

Baby sitting in a puddle on the driveway

The baby’s favourite outdoor entertainment involves splashing in puddles, hassling the cat, picking flowers (so cute), practicing walking up and down the barn ramp, visiting the horses across the road and definitely ingesting a (hopefully) healthy amount of dirt.

If like us, you’re spending a lot of time outside and you happen to also live in tick territory, here’s an article I wrote about how to protect your dog (and yourself) from ticks.

This documentary about the Mayo Clinic was so impressive and inspiring. And this documentary about how Bill Murray seeks and creates joy gave me joy.

Matt and I are regular Jeopardy watchers (yes, we’re closet senior citizens), so we’ve been watching James Holtzhuaer since the start. Initially we were excited by him because he reminds us so much of my sister’s husband: appearance, voice, quickness on the buzzer, weird wager amounts. But then we got excited for how James has been playing… and winning ($2 million and counting). I’ve loved reading some of the articles that go behind the scenes on James’ impressive run: The Man Who Solved Jeopardy

I’ve always loved hyper-realistic art, so CJ Hendry’s images blow me away (those ink blots are done with pencil crayon). It was interesting to read about how Instagram helped her popularity, but I was kind of bummed with the focus on “art-world acceptance.” I’m not in this sphere, so I don’t know how important galleries and museums and critics and collectors are. She definitely has a loyal following, commercial success and a lot of acceptance in certain circles. If you’re an artist, feel free to enlighten me.

The story of a Pulitzer prize winning reporter (from my hometown who got started at our local newspaper).

A good reminder of the importance of water conservation.

I cook mainly vegetarian these days, and I’m a fan of the power of cauliflower (Matt not so much). Two recipes we’ve I’ve enjoyed are taco “meat” (dial up the seasoning) and cauliflower bolognese (my MIL thought it was a meat sauce). On the non-cauliflower side, these lasagna stuffed mushrooms were a hit with everyone, including the baby.

My writing elsewhere:

What are you eating these days–hopefully it’s not too much dirt? Any other Jeopardy fans out there? Do you have any artist Instagram accounts to recommend? Or must-watch documentaries?

 

Solar panels five years later

It’s been five years since we turned on our solar panels. Each spring, I look at our numbers to compare how we’ve done each year and see how much money we’ve made overall.

Solar panel array

Here are previous year’s updates:

If you want to get caught up on how this all started, my Going Solar series covered all of the details of our install and our array:

And now to the latest update.

If you’ve been following along, you know that the power we generate goes back to the provincial grid, rather than to our own use. We paid to install the panels, but the province pays us for the power they produce.

Last year we made $4,595.18, bringing our total income over the past 5 years to $22,777.75.

Annual solar income over 5 years

As of this year we’ve made 56% of what we invested in installing the panels ($40,727.46). Solar panels are obviously a long term investment for us (our contract with the provincial government pays us $0.396 per kWh and runs for 20 years).

This year’s profit was the third highest since we powered up the solar panels. As always, the weather determines how much power we generate, and it varies every month and every year.

Monthly solar income over 5 years

But like always, what we made far exceeded what we spent on power.

We paid $2,595.02 for electricity last year, meaning we came out $2,000.16 ahead.

Solar programs vary a lot depending on where you live and what your goals are. As well, solar technology has come a long way since we installed our panels 5 years ago. For us, our system has been working really well for us–both environmentally and financially–and we’re really happy we made this decision.

Odds & sods

Happy last Monday of March. This was a special month. We marked 7 years of living here at the farm. And we marked Matt’s 40th birthday. There was lots of time with family, more sunshine and warmer temperatures.

Matt holding Ellie while he blows out the candles on his birthday cake

It feels like we have finally turned the corner into spring. The skating rink that was our driveway has turned into a mud strip. We tapped some maple trees to make syrup. The skating rink that was the pond is melting.

Tapping maple trees

I was down at the pond one morning last week and discovered that there is some serious construction going on down there. We have beavers again and they are building lodges and taking down trees all around the pond. (When we first moved to the farm, I spotted a beaver one night… and I think I’m just as excited now as I was then.) I shared a video on my stories (it’s saved in my highlights).

To cap off the month, I’m sharing another round-up of some interesting things I’ve come across recently.

  • Baxter’s coyote encounter is very fresh for us. This video of a dog playing with a wild coyote, is a nice counterpoint to our violent incident. In other unlikely wildlife-dog news, this dog made friends with a wild deer.
  • “Marriage is a journey, it’s a changing of singleness to oneness. A removal of yourself and our natural desire to put ourselves first, and laying down our life for another.”
  • There’s still a place for blogs. This month’s Instagram and Facebook outage were “a reminder of the importance of cultivating and maintaining influence across a variety of digital channels.”
  • The One Room Challenge kicks off next week. I’m actually thinking about participating, albeit on a really small scale. I’ve been ever so slowly been cleaning out the dining room to prepare for painting. I’m thinking the ORC might be helpful to keep me on track and actually get this project done. (See my previous ORC projects: the laundry room, master bedroom and my office.) Are you participating?

My writing elsewhere:

We have a pretty quiet week ahead. I’ll be working on a few freelance writing projects, and Matt has one appointment. Hmm, maybe I can get a headstart on the dining room.

How are you finishing off March? Did you have any special celebrations this month? What’s been inspiring you? Any unlikely animal pairings to share?

Odds & sods

Our girl is officially one year old! I know everyone says time flies, and it definitely does. But when I look back over the past year and think of everything she’s learned and how much she’s grown, it feels like it has to have been a year.

It’s amazing to watch a human grow.

Collage of 12 months of baby photos

We celebrated with a big pizza party with Matt’s and my families. It was really special–and also completely overwhelming. So many people. So many presents. So much food. We ended up delaying Ellie’s final tractor picture to the day after her birthday because it felt like we were trying to do too much. But I managed to finish a tractor cake for the big day–after Matt did an emergency run back to the grocery store for more icing sugar.

Baby with tractor pedal car

Tractor birthday cake

Our other excitement this month came courtesy of Baxter. He met up with someone or something in the woods and came home with a few gashes. One on his neck ended up needing stitches. He was not happy with his vet visit–nor the haircuts that were needed for his IV and to assess his various wounds. But we are happy that his injuries were relatively minor, that we have an amazing, kind, caring, gentle, skilled, generous team at our vet, and most of all that he’s home safe. He’s now on leash any time he’s outside, especially since he is completely fixated on the woods, apparently looking for a rematch.

Baxter looking into the woods with stitches in his neck

And now on to some of the inspiration I’ve come across over the last month:

Rambling Renovators living room

  • Jen at Rambling Renovators has amazing style, and she is going behind the scenes, sharing her process of how to decorate a room. She shared how to start and how to layout the furniture. Bonus, she’s updating her daughter’s room, which is a super fun project… not that I’m planning Ellie’s tween bedroom yet… much.
  • A reminder to not get stuck in our to-do lists and make time for family and fun
  • I’ve never made macaroni from scratch. But I’m trying to find an alternative to Matt’s favourite Kraft Dinner. I had high hopes for this vegan version (Chloe’s recipes have great flavours), but it was not a hit. Deb’s endorsement of Martha’s (non-vegan) version is making me think it’s the way to go. Any suggestions of how to get the flavour of KD with more real ingredients?
  • “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Inspiration from Arthur Ashe via Thelma Golden in In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney.

My writing elsewhere:

Did you celebrate anything this month? Or have any excitement courtesy of your pet? Do you have a macaroni recipe to share? What’s inspiring you these days?

Odds & sods

Happy Monday, everyone. I hope that you had a great weekend.

Matt and I marked our 11th wedding anniversary on Saturday (and I have to insert here that this month marks 21 years since we started dating). The past year has been full of a lot of reflection for me, as I think about changes in our family, all the things we have accomplished together, and the many plans we have for our future. We’ve shared so much–not all of it easy–and to feel part of such a strong unit is something I never take for granted.

We celebrated just the two of us with a nice dinner out on Friday while my Mom watched the baby. It was awesome to sit and talk without distraction. Any parents out there who can identify?

Anyways, on to today’s post. I began this odds & sods series last year as a way to wrap up the month, sometimes share something a bit more personal, and pass along some of the inspiring and interesting things that I’ve come across. I enjoy writing them every month, so it’s something I’ll be continuing this year. Here is this month’s round-up.

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“WHERE. IS. BREAKFAST.” ~Every animal on this farm

A post shared by Kit (@_kitliz) on

Kit and I bought our farms at approximately the same time. I admire her animals, hardcore DIY, all-in approach to life and commitment to authenticity.

Good life lessons from Mr. Rogers

Be okay with your life and your goals and don’t compare yourself to others

The best look. Inside a dog’s. Mind.

I am really enjoying podcasts. A few recent listens that were particularly interesting and inspiring:

My writing elsewhere:

We’re wrapping up January by reconnecting with some friends this week. Matt’s planned a trivia night, and I’m having brunch with five ladies I’ve been friends with since grade school–one of them since kindergarten. In other exciting news, Baxter, Matt and I are all visiting the dentist this week. I’m not sure how we managed to line our schedules up like this, but that’s what we’re doing. Ellie’s six teeth are exempt for now. What are you up to this week?

Word of the year: Slow

I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to be here. Actually, I wasn’t sure I was going to be here last week.

A couple of times over the last few months, I’ve thought about taking a break from blogging.

Between the baby and the rest of our lives, we don’t have a  lot of time for projects or home improvements, so I don’t feel like I have as much material to write about.

As well, sometimes blogging has felt like a luxury among all of the other ways I could be spending my time.

Frost covered fields at sunrise

But obviously writing is important to me.

I love writing for the same reason that I love home improvements–they’re both creative outlets for me. While home improvement is a way for me to turn off my brain and not think for a little while, writing is a way for me to think more deeply, work through things and process parts of my life.

And these days, my brain feels very full.

So I’m here. And as I did last year, I’m going to start the year with a word to help guide me through 2019.

This year, my word is “slow.”

Since having Ellie, I’ve found that I’m often rushing. With a baby, I have a narrow window of naptime, or “she’s-content-playing-by-herself-but-this-won’t-last,” or “we-have-to-eat-dinner- bath-and-go-to-bed-before-she-gets-overtired.” So whatever I’m doing, I try to do it as fast as possible. I’d like to slow down and focus on what I’m doing.

As well, I want to remember that I don’t always have to be doing. Sure there are always things to do. But sometimes reading my book or sitting down with Matt and Ellie and Baxter is the thing I should do.

Sitting in front of the fire

Scene from yesterday: I could take down the Christmas stockings. Or I could sit here with my feet up.

Life is short. Usually shorter than we want. Occasionally shorter than we can ever conceive. We have to do our absolute best to live a life that we are satisfied with. I want to feel good about what I do, who I am with and how I spend my time. And the word “spend” is important. Time is valuable. Time is precious.

This year I will be slow and savour my time.

A look back at 2018

What a year it was. I kicked off 2018 by sharing the news that I was pregnant. Ellie arrived at the end of February and we haven’t looked back. Our new family was absolutely the highlight of last year. We had some low times too–my Dad’s death and some other moments too hard for me to talk about yet. But Ellie is always light and joy and love.

Ellie–or rather her nursery–was also the source of some of the top posts on the blog last year.

I shared the reveal of her colourful, farmy, happy space and then dove into the details of various DIYs and other projects we completed in this special room.

Turquoise gender neutral nursery

Some of the most popular posts were her DIY Moroccan pouf (and a round-up of other poufs you can make yourself), the blackout window treatments (and how to pleat Ikea curtains), and an easy, low-budget Eames Hang-It-All.

How to make your own Eames Hang-It-All

A feature of the nursery is my favourite Strandmon wing chair from Ikea. I finally wrote a proper review of this chair, and it quickly became one of the most popular posts of last year.

DIY Moroccan pouf free sewing pattern

Just before Ellie arrived, I finished a project that’s been in my plans for awhile–a new coffee table for the living room. You all liked it as much as I do, and it ended up also being a top post of 2018. I used the Benchwright plan from Ana White, modifying it to have drawers on both sides. This table turned out so well, and the extra drawers are very helpful now that the baby is turning into a complete busybody.

DIY Benchwright Coffee Table

Obviously, our lives now revolve around that busybody. We didn’t do quite as many projects in 2018, but I can’t complain about how we spent our time. Sharing the farm with our little family is all I want for 2019.

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.

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?