first snow, and welcomed challenges

It snowed! It looks beautiful around here. We woke up to our first snow at the farm Sunday morning. I got out the sleds for the kids, they went down the hill at least 50 times. I had some time between cooking breakfast and lunch to work on my little house while the girls played. When they were about froze, they would come in my little house (I need a name for my little house.. Office? Studio? I’m not sure yet) and we would make hot chocolate and hang out until they were warm enough to go play again.

Kids are always adorable all puffed up in snow gear!

Kids are always adorable all puffed up in snow gear!

First snow

First snow

Love this girl!

Love this girl!

The back of my little house.

Dave, his dad, and grandpa, all had different winter prep projects going on. Winterizing equipment and putting up snow fence were some. The main one was redoing the electric in the barn. It had electric when we moved in, but there were some exposed wires and corroded conduit so we tryed to never turn the breaker on. I hear on the news every once and a while about someones barn burning down- almost always an electrical fire. It’s heartbreaking to see these owners lose animals, equipment, and the beautiful historic barns. I’m thankful they are redoing the electric so we don’t have to worry about It as much. Also, it means I will have lights in the barn which will make chores easier with the daylight being shorter.

 

With snow and cold brings new challenges. Of course, the obvious ones, it’s cold, and there’s snow.. But, some other ones, like, we have large animals in the barn that drink a lot of water and I can’t run a hose anymore to fill the waterers. Sooo this means, I haul water from our bathtub to the barn. Lots of water. Every day. I will be very strong soon haha! We don’t have water running to the barn, so hauling buckets of water will be an everyday chore in the colder months. I don’t mind it now. It’s good exercise and I have no other choice. They need water, so I might as well enjoy the process, eh?  :)

 

The next challenge is the water freezing. I would go out every couple hours and break the ice on the top of the waterers for the chickens and horse & donkey. But now that the guys put in some outlets, this morning I was thankful to be able to plug in the electric water bowl for the chickens and a heater for the horse tank. No more breaking ice, yay!

It is the barn cats first snow ever. They were born in June. I watched them roll and dig in the snow trying to figure it all out. It was adorable watching them explore. I also think I witnessed the exact moment this black cat, Soot Sprite, decided he hated snow and ran back into the barn. I have not seen him out since. Ha

We didn’t have to plow the driveway yet… That will be a bigger deal than I am used to. I’m a bit nervous about keeping up with the snow if it’s going to be as bad as they say. I’m the plower of the family. We have two nice snowblowers and now we have a plow on our four wheeler to play with. Plowing our large driveway and in between the buildings is going to be a huge job! I hope the snow goes easy on me for my first year!!

New toy this year!

New toy this year!

What snow challenges do you have to handle?

Packing fun and healthy school lunches for the girls.

When Gianna started preschool a few years ago, they ate breakfast together as a class. I thought it was cute that she ate a meal together with all her new little friends. Then, one day, I happened to be in the classroom when they served breakfast.. I busted out laughing. It was 2 frosted pop tarts, sugary cereal, and a packaged muffin treat and chocolate milk.  It added up to about 1200 calories!  I am not for calorie counting for kids, but, HOLY HELL!! No wonder so many kids have weight problems! I figured (hoped!) it was just an off day, I wouldn’t freak out.. Yet. The next day, I became the creepy mom and walked Gianna to her seat and lingered solely to see what they were going to eat. It was some slimy French toast sticks in a packaged microvave container, some weird crap the teacher and I couldn’t figure out, a honey bun, and chocolate milk.. Ha! The teachers and I joked about how silly it was that this is what they ate when there were posters 5 feet from me about eating healthy and not eating too much sugar. She hasn’t had school food since. I am not saying I am the healthiest eater, but I do eat more than just crap carbs and sugar! I started packing her breakfast, and then from kindergarten on, her lunch.

 

One thing I love, is the concept of bento boxes. Bento boxes are Japanese lunch boxes where all the food is together in one container. You don’t need to use plastic bags this way. If you Pinterest bento boxes you will see they are crazy popular with some people. I follow Pinterest and Instagram accounts completely dedicated to bento boxes. Most of them are way to detailed for me to make in the 10 minutes I have in the morning, but you can simplify the ideas. Here are some I have done. image Rice, vegetables, and fruit.

image

Bear sandwiches, fruit, yogurt.

This one I did around Easter last year. I put crackers in the little egg.

This one I did around Easter last year. Bunny sandwiches, fruit, vegetables. I put crackers in the little egg.

image

Animal sandwiches, fruit, crackers in the egg.

I always put a “main dish” like a sandwich, bagel or soup. Then fruit and vegetables with a little treat tucked in.

Turkey sandwich, fruit kabob, vegetables and crackers.

Turkey sandwich, fruit kabob, vegetables and crackers.

I put a cute napkin in top before I put the lid on to keep things from moving around. 20141027_073818_1-1

On amazon you can find tons of fun lunch box accessories. The bento boxes are so fun. I figure I am going to be packing school lunches for a long time. I might as well make it fun for myself, and the girls.

 

I will post about the lunch box accessories and the boxes I use next. The stuff is so cute and fun for them!

-Ash

 

Getting into a routine.

I have a good routine at the new house. School schedules, Dave’s work schedule, and animal demands help keep things consistant. I know people are supposed to be all spontaneous all the time.. And sometimes that’s cool, but I really take comfort in routine. I get up around 6am, make coffee and breakfast for Dave while he gets ready for work. Then the kids come down and I make them breakfast. Gianna gets ready for school, I make her lunch, then we go sit on the bench at the end of the driveway and wait for the bus. We chit chat about school, animals, and potential Halloween costumes until the bus comes. I love our morning bus stop conversations.  :)

Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus

After she’s off, I get Morgan and we go check on the animals. A couple days ago, I walked up on the chickens and saw white feathers everywhere. Right away I thought something got into the coop! Luckly, they are fine, Salt (our white chicken) is just molting. Ha! Then Morgan and I do our walk around the property checking on things. We feed The pony and donkey some grain, and check on everyone’s water and hay. We explore around the property checking on spider webs, the apple trees, the pastures, and looking for animal tracks. It’s so fun here.

Good morning, Pepper!

Good morning, Pepper!

Walking around exploring.

Then we go inside and I do a once over and clean anything left out from the morning. After that, I start on whatever project needs to be done that day. I try to keep everything organized by day so I get everything done during the week. Like today is Monday, so I need to…

Monday:

-Meal plan for the week.

-Shop for meals for the week.

-Restock whatever we ran out of over the weekend. (beer!!! & Smore stuff!!)

-Do laundry from the weekend (dirty work clothes!)

Some time during this, Morgan and I have lunch and then she gets ready for school. We sit out on the bench and wait for the school bus. I am really loving this little alone time at the bus stop with each of my girls every day. They are so cute!

Waiting for the bus. :)

Waiting for the bus. :)

Once Morgan is off to school, I continue with whatever I have that day along with my everyday to do list. Sometimes Dave stops home and I make him lunch too. I like seeing him during the day :).

The kids get off the bus about 3:30. I make them a snack and then we do homework. Once that is done, the girls go play outside and I start on dinner. The girls set the table and get drinks for everyone and we have dinner together when Dave gets home. After that, we play a board game, read a bit, or watch a movie together.

Our weekdays go a lot like that. I stay really busy, most days I feel like I never stop moving. If I didn’t have a routine, or schedule, I wouldn’t get everything done. Does anyone else organize their house work by day?

 

Buying a pony for Gianna’s birthday.

Gianna turned 8 on Tuesday! I can’t believe my first little baby is now 8! We will have a birthday party for her at the end of the month. She wants a Halloween themed party, that will be fun to do. I felt guilty last year because we didn’t have a big party for her. She is at her dad’s every other weekend, then the weekend she was here Dave is gone for army training. Having a family get together on a weekend, when we were all here, gets tricky. This year the beginning of November is the only time we all have a Sunday together. She doesn’t mind though, it just means her birthday last all month! :)

 

A few weeks ago, Dave told me he wanted to buy Gianna a pony for her birthday! My first reaction was NO WAY!! I rode when I was younger, did shows, and barrel races, and rode my friends horses in southern IL, but owning one is completely different!! I was a firm “no!” for about a week.. Then, Dave and I sat down, and went through the financials of buying and keeping a horse, and worse case senerios. Like, if we see something is wrong with the horse at midnight on a Sunday, can we handle a $2,000 emergency vet bill? How about the 100 bales of hay we need for winter? Having a farrier come every 8 weeks? It’s scary being responsible for the care and wellbeing of such a large animal.

 

The previous owners at our farm had a horse, so we are all set up to keep one as far as fences, stalls, and pastures goes. Most of the small farms around here have a horse or two hanging around. For some reason I felt like you have to have a ton of extra play money to own a horse. Theses little farms around here with a couple horses hanging around are not rich people. They have cute little farm houses like ours, and their horses seem happy, so I was starting to think it was doable. Well, I eventually said “maybe” then after meeting them that turned into a “yes!” ha!

 

Bear, Gianna’s pony, is an 11 year old Ponies of Americas Pony. His friend is an 11 year old miniature donkey named Willy. Dave works with their previous owner. Bear can ride English and western, he was shown in pony shows by her kids, and was a 4-h project. They also raise beef cattle, so they don’t have much time to give to Bear and Willy anymore. It works out great: we have lots of time to give to them, we get a gentle horse that the kids can ride, and the previous owners know they went to a good home, and can come visit whenever they like. It seems like an overall win-win.   I wish I took video of when Gianna first saw them. We didn’t tell her what she was getting for her birthday. She thought it was a swing set or a chicken (I don’t know where she got those ideas lol). We told her all week her present was coming on the weekend. She begged me to give her hints. Little did she know, I was giving hints all week by renting a horse safety video “on accident” and playing horse safety videos on YouTube, non stop, all week. :)

Bear

Bear

Willy

Willy

Bear has the coolest cinnimon-molted-mini-appoloosa color. I love it! I’m still nervous about this undertaking. I want to make sure they are happy and healthy. While they get used to their new space, I try to be present as much as I can so they get used to me. I walk with them on the lead. I sit by the pasture while I write emails, and they eat hay. We got them last Sunday, they are pretty much settled in to their new farm. We are all loving having them around! Pony kisses are the best!

First thing in the morning Gianna runs outside to check on her pony.

First thing in the morning Gianna runs outside to check on her pony.

 

 

A little blurry, but Willy is so cute!

A little blurry, but Willy is so cute!

Willy is getting used to the kids being all up in his face. I love Morgan's crazy outfits.

Willy is getting used to the kids being all up in his face. I love Morgan’s crazy outfits.

When the kids get off the bus they run to go say hi to Bear and Willy. I hope they know how loved they are.

 

 

The traveling barn painter, and other visitors

Since moving to the farm, we have had a few visitors (outside of friends and family) stop by. Today, a traveling barn painter stopped by… I can’t say it with a straight face. Every time I say it, I laugh, and I don’t know why. “Oh, honey, the traveling barn painter stopped by today, he’s only here for a little while before he moves on to the next town.”. To me, it sounds like a line in a movie, and it makes me feel very much like a city girl. We have a barn, so it makes sence that we would hire a “barn painter”.. I guess it’s the “traveling” part that throws me off. Ha! Anyway, the man said it would cost about $2,500 to paint the barn, well house, and my little house. That doesn’t sound that bad. We have been spending money like crazy though, and you never know what “surprise” repair may come up next. Painting the buildings is low on the priority list right now. I think they look pretty good and can hang out like this another year.

 

The barn, well house, and guest house.

Last week, a neighbor, who lives 1/2 mile down the road, stopped by. He pulled in the driveway and honked his horn a few times. We came out and chatted for a bit. He was very nice and welcoming. He knew some cool history on the farm. I can’t wait to swing by and ask him some more questions.

A few days before that, someone pulled into the driveway and honked a few times. I had just gotten out of the shower. Before I could get dressed, the guy drove off. Sorry, guy!

I wonder if pulling in the driveway and honking is farm visiting etiquette. The traveling painter did the same thing. He pulled in, honked, and waited for someone to come outside. Should I do this when I visit people? I don’t know any farm people to ask.. or visit- ha! Neither one of us grew up on a farm or were ever around one often. Dave and I grew up a couple blocks from each other in a big neighborhood in northern Illinois. Now, we have traveling painters that stop by looking for work. Ha! It’s all so foreign to me. I love and welcome all these new experiences: some great, some funny, some overwhelming and expensive. Buying this place is a neat adventure for our family. One day it will feel normal to tell Dave “oh, hey, the traveling barn painter stopped by today.”. Until then, I’ll say it in a weird accent and giggle every time.

Have a nice day!

Ashley