Sunday, July 27, 2014

Swimming

As I have talked about previously, with the girls getting older, we are getting to do more and more with them which is lots of fun. We decided they were old enough to enroll them in swimming lessons this summer.  One of my worst memories growing up is my dad trying to teach me to swim at a motel on a family vacation. So, I definitely want to make learning to swim as good of a experience as I can.  We signed them up for two week lessons at Wilson Park pool in Fayetteville and they finished this past Friday.  Clara's age group had a parent in the pool with them. Margo was the one  lucky enough to be in the pool because swimming is not my thing (see above).  Esther's age group was just with instructors. Overall it went pretty well, but as most of you probably know, our girls have very different personalities. Clara is up for anything so she was really into it and progressed really well over the two weeks and did great. Clara's instructor was impressed with her and asked Margo why she was so advanced in the pool for her age. We had no idea because she had only been in a pool a couple times. We guessed she just came by it naturally from Margo because Margo loves the pool. Esther enjoyed being in the pool, but was not a big fan of the lessons themselves and wasn't really into participating in the lessons.  It definitely helped her with being better in the water but she did not make as much progress as Clara.  Esther was also sick for a couple days so she missed a couple lessons.
We are going to keep working with them throughout the summer and hope that they will pick up swimming and enjoy it.  We have a great aquatic park in Prairie Grove (especially for being a small town) and plan to visit it often.  We took them today and they did great. Clara is super confident so you have to stay on top of her because she will just jump in off the side even though she can not really swim. She loves jumping in and will do it all by herself with her floatie on.

First Day
Esther with the instructor
Here is a video of Clara jumping in today at the pool.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The big 4 for Esther

Today is Esther's 4th birthday. It is hard to believe that she is truly a little girl, not a baby or toddler anymore. She is a very smart, creative, and independent little girl. She loves to color and draw. She creates multiple masterpieces everyday! She is actually really good at coloring. She stays in the lines and is very creative with her color choice. She still loves to read. We read lots of books everyday. We plan to start working with her soon on reading. She knows how to spell and write several words. She knows all her letters and sounds and can recognize several words already, so hopefully she'll pick up reading fairly easily. She really likes to play dress up too. She got some new dress-up clothes and jewelry for her birthday this weekend and has played with them non-stop since. She picks out her clothes, dresses herself, can somewhat brush her hair and teeth by herself, open the car doors, get in her car seat and buckle herself in. She can fill her cup with water from the fridge door all by herself and helps Clara fill her's also. She helps set the table for dinner every night, helps unload the dishwasher, and puts away her own laundry. She also plays (and fights) really well with Clara. 


We had a party for her this weekend with our friends and family. She requested chocolate cake with purple frosting, butterfinger ice cream, and party hats! The kids had a fun time playing and the adults had a good time visiting.
 







Monday, June 30, 2014

Garden and Farm Update

I thought it would be good to put up an update on how the garden and farm are coming along. The garden is doing well overall but some things are struggling a little bit.  The first year of a new garden is always a little worse because the soil is not quite up to my standards. It takes a good 2-3 years for me to get it all worked up good and get the right amendments in and get a good worm population going. This garden seems to be struggling even more than previous first year gardens.  I think it might be because there was a barn where the garden is when we moved in and we tore it down. That ground had not seen rain or sunlight for many years and tractors were stored in there so there is no telling what fluids got dripped onto the ground.  I did bring lots of new soil and compost in to make my raised beds but I am thinking the soil that was there is having an effect. There are parts of the rows where whatever I have planted is stunted, yellow, and not looking good. It is really crazy.  I am hoping it will work itself out in a year or two. Overall though we are doing pretty good on vegetables. We had lots of early season bok choi, radishes, spinach. We ate on sugar snap peas for a long time and just recently cut them down as they had mostly stopped producing. I don't plant a whole lot of potatoes but what I did plant produced great, it was a good potato year. We have canned I think 20 quarts and 30 pints of green beans so far and they are still producing. As usual, we also have an overabundance of squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. Peppers are going crazy right now also, I am planning to can some pickled peppers and hot sauce soon. We are starting to get tomatoes, although they are not looking as good as I would like. This corn is really struggling this year but I am hoping it turns out ok. I have pretty much given up on the eggplant, it just has not done anything. My winter squash and cantaloupe is coming along nicely. The fruit trees and berries are all looking good also, especially the strawberries, they are growing like crazy. I hope to have lots of berries next year.
I have been able to start selling more produce this year with my bigger garden and hope to continue to sell even more in the future.  If anyone in the area is interested in fresh veggies, let us know.
The farm is coming along nicely also. I feel like I am starting to catch up on all my projects and getting the "to do" list knocked out. My biggest project I still have left is fence but most of it will have to wait for the fall and winter. Our animal count is growing also. We currently have 25 chickens, 10 sheep, 6 goats, and 9 steers.  We are taking a steer to the butcher on Saturday and will soon have lots of beef in the freezer which is exciting. We ran out of home grown beef a couple months ago and it is hard for us to buy beef from the store. We had a baby lamb born sometime last night so that is very exciting.
One thing we are loving about all of this is having the girls get involved in helping with the garden and animals. They seem to really enjoy themselves and are learning lots. And I am excited for them to experience and help even more as they get older.





Steers
Sheep
Here are the goats. The big goat in the middle is our ginormous billy goat named Heisenberg. He is one of the biggest goats I have ever seen. For perspective, the goat standing to the right of him is a normal sized full grown goat. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

The girls - an update

I wanted to post a brief update on the girls.

They continue to grow up. They are definitely little girls, not babies anymore. It is hard to believe that Esther will be 4 next month, and Clara is 2.5. It is fun to watch them play together. They have great imaginations. When we are inside they do lots of cooking, picnics, and eating with their play food, kitchen, and dishes. They also play with their babies a lot. Lately I've heard them playing school, pretending to be their teachers and doing things that they do at school. In typical big sister fashion, Esther spends lots of her time bossing Clara around. They play great together, but they also fight a lot too!

Now that it is summer time, we spend a lot of time outside. They help me gather eggs everyday. They really love it when I catch a chicken for them to pet! They like to ride their bikes and color with sidewalk chalk. Josh recently finished their new playhouse/swingset (a post about the pontoon playhouse will be coming soon) so they spend a lot of time playing on that. It is close to the garden, so they play while we work in the garden. They are definitely little farm girls. They like to help us do things, ride on the tractor and mower, play with all of the animals, dig in the dirt, play in whatever water or mud they can find, and get as dirty as possible. Needless to say, they get a bath almost every night.

Esther continues to amaze us with the things she knows, learns, and remembers. She likes to practice writing letters and spelling words. We haven't really worked with her too much with reading words or spelling, but she has picked up quite a few words that she can write and recognize. Clara can recognize most all of the letters, but she isn't writing letters yet. Both of them love to draw and color. We go through lots of paper, and they are always drawing us things. They like to fold up their papers and give us "presents".

Esther is getting really big and independent. She can open the doors to our vehicles, get in her carseat and buckle herself in. She can get her own water out of the dispenser on the refrigerator and will get water for Clara too. She picks out her clothes, dresses herself and gets her shoes on without any help. She has become really good at swinging and pumping her legs to go high on her own. It is nice that she can do most things for herself, but bittersweet that she is growing up so fast.

Clara continues to be such a funny kid. She does funny voices, silly faces, and crazy dance moves all the time. She hardly ever just walks anywhere, she usually runs or dances to get somewhere. She often will be in her own little world, but will then randomly talk in a funny voice or do something crazy that catches you off guard. She keeps us entertained for sure. It makes up for all of the tantrums. I had forgotten the completely illogical and unprompted meltdowns of a two year old. Clara has always had extreme emotions, when she is happy she is super happy, but when she is upset it is the end of the world.

We had some family pictures taken last week and got some cute ones of the girls. You can see their personalities, Esther being more serious and harder to get a smile out of and Clara being a ham.






Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Accident

I wanted to be sure and chronicle this on the blog so in the future I can relive it.  May 10th started out as a potentially great day.  We drove down to see some friends who are missionaries in India and this was our weekend to spend with them.  We had only been there a couple hours and decided to go outside and let the kids play.  They were riding tricycles and scooters down a concrete driveway that went down hill for a little ways and then flattened out.  They were really having a good time. There was one of those razor scooters there.

Esther had not ridden one of these before and did not know how to operate it.  I decided to show her how to push herself along on it.  Then I went to the top of the incline to show her she could ride it down.  So, here I am going down a concrete driveway incline on a 4 year old size razor scooter.  What I did not know is that the kids had been warned not to ride the scooter down to the bottom because there was a drainage grate at the bottom of the incline and the front wheel of the scooter would get stuck in it and send you flying.  So, here I am going pretty fast down the driveway and sure enough the front tire sticks in the drainage grate and I go face first into the concrete. It happened so fast that I could not catch myself and the next thing I know I am standing up with blood pouring off my face and in terrible pain. Margo said she knew it was bad when she asked if I was ok and I said "No".  I thought I had busted out all my teeth but luckily just chipped one and injured some others. I had scrapes and road rash all over my hands, arms, neck, and face. I got lightheaded and had to lay down and just kept bleeding.  I finally looked at myself in the mirror and decided it might be a good idea to go to the ER and get checked out.  They did a CT of head and neck but luckily nothing was broken.  They wrapped me up and sent me home because you can't stitch road rash.  My worst wound was my lip, it had a big hunk out of it. We decided to end our weekend with friends early and go home because I was miserable.
I had lots of pain for several days and had to take pain meds and not go to work. Several of my teeth were really hurting so I could not eat well.  I had to drink through a straw for over a week.  It was 5 weeks ago and I still can't bite with my front teeth.  Two and a half weeks after it happened one of my fingers was still hurting me even though the wounds had healed so I went and had it xrayed and it turns out I had broken it in the accident. 33 years old and that was my first broken bone.  I also have to have a root canal next week and we are waiting to see if the rest of the teeth get better or if I have to have them fixed also.
It is so crazy that I go that injured doing something so innocent it seemed like at the time.  I am know to do a lot more crazy and dangerous stuff than that and never get hurt.  I don't think I am invincible or anything, I just think I am really coordinated and have fast reflexes which helps me keep from getting seriously hurt.  It did not work this time though.  I think this was the biggest injury/accident I have ever had before.  I actually healed up pretty well and fast, better than I thought I would.
Here are some pics.

Day after the accident

1 week after
Today


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Beach Vacation 2014

We are a bit behind blogging, so hopefully we'll get a few things posted this week to get caught up.

We didn't think we were going to be able to take a beach vacation this year with a bunch of new farm expenses and other things. But at the last minute things worked out for us to go. We've found that if you go the week before Memorial Day the prices for lodging are still reasonable, the water is already warm, and school is still in session so it isn't too crowded. We went back to Navarre Beach, Florida this year and stayed in the same complex that we did last year. We really like Navarre. It isn't touristy and crowded but has great beaches. We often had the pool to ourselves and very few people on the beach. We also like going down to the National Seashore which is just down the road and we had the beach to ourselves there as well. Like last year, our girls did great in the car and even better this year. They looked out the window, played with toys, read books, and colored. There were some tantrums, but overall they did great. We went totally expecting to use the DVD player, but we never needed to.

Playing in the sand at the National Seashore
Playing in the waves
Everyone enjoyed walks down the beach
A beach vacation is so great with little kids. Esther and Clara were happy to play in the sand for long periods of time. Esther loved the ocean and would take off into it if we would let her. We would take her out and let the waves hit her. We spent more time in the pool this year than last. Clara wasn't such a big fan of the waves, but loved the pool. Esther loved the ocean, but was more timid in the pool. They both would wear their floatie rings and float all around the pool. Josh's beach activity is hunting for shells. Last year we found lots of really great shells, but for some reason this year there were hardly any.

One day we went to Pensacola and went to the National Naval Aviation Museum. There were lots of neat planes and other exhibits. They had several planes that you could climb in, which the girls loved.

At the National Naval Aviation Museum
Playing in the sand at the condo, Josh relaxing.

Clara didn't mind the waves if she was sitting down and close to me.
Our attempt at a family picture. For some reason Clara didn't want to be in the picture.
It is fun to look back at last year's vacation and see how much the girls have grown. Taking trips with the girls as they get older gets more and more fun with them able to do more. We are excited to take many more vacations as a family.
A view from our condo.


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