Monday, April 21, 2014

The Garden of Hale - New House Edition

Warning: Long Post Ahead

One of the things our new place did not have when we moved in is a garden.  As you know, a big part of what we do is gardening (no till raised bed gardening).  The majority of our summer veggies come from our garden. And we can our own green beans, tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, salsa, pickles and we freeze our corn for the whole year. I hope to continue to increase what we grow and preserve and want to expand into selling some veggies.  Since this is going to be our "permanent" home I wanted to do the garden up right and make sure and make it plenty big. Once I got this garden set up, it ended up being probably like 50% bigger than my last garden.  I have 1500sqft of bed space. I also have an asparagus bed and a 100 sqft herb bed.
Another thing I have always wanted to do was an orchard and fruit. I have not really done it before because fruit takes years to produce well and I have never planned on staying long at our previous places. So I was super excited to put in lots of fruit at this place.  A coworker of Margo's is a fruit growing extraordinaire (seriously, it is what he does for a living) and helped me in selecting varieties.  He also sells fruit trees and fruit from his orchard. If you are looking for fruit trees I recommend him...Ames Orchard and Nursery. In the orchard, I have put in 3 apple trees, 2 pear trees, 3 peach trees, 1 mulberry tree, 1 asian persimmon, 2 pawpaws, and 2 pecan trees.  I also have put in 10 blackberry bushes, 4 raspberry bushes, 6 blueberry bushes, 2 juneberry bushes, and 60 strawberry plants.
When we moved in, a big decision I had to make is where to put the garden. I wanted it close to the house and preferably connected to the yard.  I think when I decided and told people where it was going, they thought I was a little crazy, because there was a 40x50 barn where I wanted to put it and a 30ft RV metal carport in the way.  When we moved in, besides the house and shop, there were 2 big barns, another small barn, a metal rv carport, and a metal carport and it was all right around the house.  The barn we ended up tearing down where the garden was going was in bad shape and needed to go.  I actually gave it to a guy in exchange for him tearing it down and hauling it off. I also sold the 2 metal carports.  I then had 2 dumptruck loads of topsoil hauled in to level the area and make my raised garden beds. I also hauled in two trailer loads of compost and three loads of mulch.  It was a lot of work making the beds and getting it all set up but it turned out great.  It is really going to be great once everything is growing and all  my herbs and berries are big in a few years. I will continue to post pictures in the future as the garden grows and becomes more of my vision for what it will look like. But here are a few before and after pics.  I have done most of my planting for this year already and have corn, green beans, onions, bok choi, radishes, spinach, cabbage, sugar snap peas, and potatoes coming up. I should have squash, cucumbers, and cantaloupe up soon. I also planted peppers, eggplant, and 49 tomato plants today.  I still have a few things to plant but it is almost all in.

Before - that is the barn we tore down and the rv carport we sold
After - the barn you see is the other barn that we did not tear down
Before
After
Before
After

In progress
In progress
Garden beds
Garden entrance - the beds on the outside of the official garden space are the herbs and strawberries and I hope to have vines growing over the arbor. 
Fruit trees






Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Finally

It seemed like this winter lasted forever and was worse than normal. We and (I think) everyone else are really glad that it is over.  I know our girls are super happy to be able to spend more time outside.  We are also happy for them to be outside because they entertain themselves for longer and wear themselves out so they sleep good. As a family we spend a lot of time outside, as much as we possibly can. We aren't ones to sit inside and watch tv or whatever. I really look forward to the days in a few years where we can really turn them loose and just let them go explore on their own and do whatever they want without having to watch over them as much.
Since it was extra nice today we decided to load up the girls and take them to some special places to play outside. First we went to a big parking lot at the Prairie Grove high school football stadium and let the girls ride their bikes. They are both getting really good at riding. Riding on pavement is easier for them than on the grass here at home so we take them to a big parking lot every once in a while and just let them go at it.  Esther is really good and needs no help at all riding. Clara still needs a little help sometimes getting started but she is doing great overall and is much better at it then Esther was at her age. After we rode bikes we went to a playground at the Viney Grove Community Building.  Viney Grove is a small community that we live closest to, it is just right down the road. There is not much there besides a church, community building and some houses. But they have some fun old school playground equipment at the community building and the church is a beautiful old church. The girls got to play on a merry go round for the first time which was lots of fun.

Hale's Angels Biker Gang

If you don't know her, you can tell from the pictures that Clara is always having a good time.  Her shirt is perfect for her (it says Local Celebrity),  because she is notorious for being the life of the party and always wanting to ham it up. 

Enjoying the merry go round

They loved running around and around pushing mommy and daddy also.  This picture shows perfectly where Esther learned to push running and then jump up on the merry go round while it is going.  This must just be instinctual for kids because she just did it unexpectedly and landed it the first time.  She is a natural merry go rounder.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New Deck

One of my big projects to complete before the spring was the deck.  If you remember when we bought the house, the previous owners had removed the back sliding door and put in a fake propane fireplace.  When I remodeled, I took out the fireplace and put a new back door back in.  We love to eat outside when the weather is warm so I knew we were going to need a deck.  This one presented a new kind of challenge for me though.  Our house is not built very high above ground level and behind our house there is a slight rise.  Outside our back door it is a 16 inch drop to the ground but at the far edge of the deck it was only going to be 4 inches off the ground. The best solution would have been to pour a concrete slab or put in a nice rock patio.  But those are a lot more expensive and a lot more permanent (in case we ended up not liking it) than a wood deck.  So, we went with the wood deck.  Whenever this deck needs to be replaced in many years, we might look at one of the other options.
What I ended up having to do since we were going to do a deck, was to dig out a lot of dirt for the joists and joist supports.  It was a lot of work and not any fun.  In fact it may be one of my least favorite projects I have done in a long time.  One of the bonuses of doing a deck though is I was able to make it level going out the back door so there is no step down and that is nice. And because of the incline of the land, I am only going to have to put a step off the deck on one side.  I ended up building it 22' wide x 16' deep.  Which turned out to be perfect once we got our stuff up there.

Getting started




Clara was VERY helpful
Esther was really into it and actually was helpful at times.  She would hand me screws when I was putting on the decking.  Which I remember always being my job when I was little...handing dad nails. 



I did let Esther run the drill a couple times with me to put in some screws (pay no attention to the thinning hair)


In progress

Finished

Added a little wheelchair ramp so we were ADA compliant

With our stuff




Saturday, March 15, 2014

Livestock

It has been a busy winter.  When trying to get semi run-down place into a good working farm and a nice home area, it takes a lot of work.  Even with the crazy winter we have had, I have had to keep going to try and get a lot of things done before summer gets here because summer brings garden and livestock which we need to be ready for.  I started working on fence a while back.  The fence that is here is 5-6 strand barb wire that is in bad shape.  I am putting up field fence so that it will keep in goats and sheep.  I will not be able to get all the fence done this year because it is too expensive.  I was able to fence a 2-3 acre pasture area so that just in case I get some goats or sheep, I will have a place for them.  My main plan for this year to just to get some steers to raise throughout the summer and then sell before next winter to make some money.  The existing barb wire fence will hold in cows. We really never thought we would have enough acreage to do more than one or so cows but with this place we will be able to do several which is exciting. We both like having cows around.  We will not do cows exclusively but it will probably be our main livestock we have here since we have so much pasture.
We set aside some money so we could hopefully buy 10 calves this year to raise throughout the summer. So far we have six. The cool season grass is starting to green up so they are able to be out eating grass most of time. It is nice to lookout our windows and see our calves. It makes us happy. We can't wait until the farm is completely set up (maybe next year) and we have cows, goats, sheep, chickens, and maybe pigs and turkey roaming around.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Update

Its been awhile since we blogged, and I wanted to write an update on the girls. There will be some farm updates coming soon.

The girls spend a lot of time coloring, drawing, and writing.
Esther is really turning in to a little girl, it is hard to believe that she will be 4 in just a few months. She is very independent. She can pretty much do everything for herself, other than getting plates out of the cabinet and getting the milk out of the refrigerator. She loves to help--set the table at supper, put away laundry, put away groceries, she even helped Josh pull up and carry fence posts the other day. 

She continues to blow us away with the things she knows and remembers. She is really into writing words right now. She knows how to spell all of our names and writes them often. She likes to ask us to spell things and she will write them, or she'll just write a bunch of letters and ask us what she spelled! She loves to read books. We get new library books every week and after we have read a book a couple of times she usually has it memorized and can "read" it to you. She has known her directions (right/left) for awhile and will tell us what direction we are turning or are going to turn. She has learned all of the road names we drive on and knows the way we drive to all of our routine places. I'm fairly sure she could direct someone on how to drive from our house to her school, church, the grocery store, or Josh's parents' house.
Esther practicing her portrait skills.
We had several people tell us the "3s" were harder than the "2s" as far as behavior. Esther is definitely one of those kids! She is very strong willed and doesn't want to comply unless it was her idea. Couple that with the irrational thought processes and behaviors of a toddler and some days I think I'm going to loose my mind! But overall she is a sweet, smart, and fun little girl.
Esther loves drawing people and writing her name.
Clara continues to keep us entertained. Even Esther says, "Oh Clara, you are being dramatic." I wish we could keep a video camera on her at all times so we could share all of the hilarious faces, expressions, voices, dances, and silly things she says. She lives in her own little world most of the time, but it looks like a pretty great place to be! We have even talked about renting her out to people who are feeling down to help cheer them up.  She is constantly making us laugh, even when she gets in trouble it is hard to keep a straight face. We are not sure at what age most kids start this but she even does funny voices at times to make us laugh. 
Clara cheesing for the camera
Clara is also gaining independance. She keeps up with Esther and can do just about everything her big sister does. She insists on picking out her own clothes most days, so you never know what she is going to look like. Clara's big recent milestone is she is now potty trained. She still wears a diaper at nighttime, and still has an occasional accident, but overall we consider her potty trained. After 3.5 years of changing diapers, we are very excited about this.


Playing, they were probably going on an adventure.

Zoned out watching a few minutes of Seasame Street

Playing in the dirt, a favorite activity.






Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Time Is Here

Like everyone else, this is a busy time of year for us.  It seems like we are always busy no matter what time of year but the Christmas season is even busier with doing our Christmas card, making candy and goodies, watching lots of Christmas movies, going to Christmas parties, coming up with gift ideas, etc.
As the girls get older it gets even more fun because they can do more and we can do more activities with them.  In previous years on this blog I have mentioned about how we try to promote Jesus and his birth over commercialization and Santa at Christmas time. I have to admit it is harder now that we have kids and we really have to work at it but it is so worth it to us. We have been teaching the girls about who St. Nicholas was and talk to them about how Santa is not real which is hard when they get the Santa thing at school and everywhere else. We got out their little people nativity that they love playing with and fighting over.  It is always funny to hear someone screaming "Give me back baby Jesus".  And we have read about the birth of Jesus in the Jesus Storybook Bible (which may be the best version of the Bible out there).
We have been doing lots of other fun activities also.....
Building a gingerbread house
Completed gingerbread house.  Notice someone is not to happy about something. 
And here is a video of our nightly dancing.  The girls have really been loving to dance to little drummer boy while playing their drums.  This video is a little dark because Esther prefers dancing with all the lights off except the Christmas tree lights these days.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Snow

As the girls get older, there are more and more things that they are able to do/enjoy and that we can do together.  I don't want them to grow up too fast but I look forward to these things. One of those things is sledding.  When I was a kid, I loved sledding and it was one of my favorite things.  Then I grew up and I still loved sledding.
This past weekend, we got some really good snow...about 8 inches with a layer of ice underneath.  The girls were really excited about the snow and getting to play in it.  Unfortunately it was not good snow for snow balls and snowmen but it was great for sledding.  We have a great driveway for sledding at their age, steep enough to go pretty fast but not scary steep. The three of us piled on the sled and went down a few times.  The girls really enjoyed it.  We would have went a whole lot more but hauling two toddlers up the hill wears you out fast. I also got to take Esther down a few times just me and her and we laid down on the sled which is much faster and she loved it. We also got to make some snow angels and play some more before we had to go in from the cold. One thing I found out from our fun is that I am not as young as a used to be.  It hurt to sled and I was very sore the next day.
I really enjoyed our time in the snow and I look forward to even more fun as they get older and can do more.

Pulling the girls around

Sledding down the driveway

Snow angels

Our snowy view