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What Our Family Dogs Mean to Us

The family, but me, with all of the dogs Jan. 2012

I did an About Us section for our blog awhile back, and I decided I needed to introduce you to more of our family members. Today, I’ll start with the dogs.

It all began with Skipper. He’s our miniature dachshund that we have had the pleasure of being owned by for 13.5 years, yep he owns us…have you ever met a mini doxie?. It all started with dogsitting…we had some great friends in Texas who had a miniature dachshund, Buster, that was so sweet to watch; he would just curl up with you and nap. He was smart and would bark like he was a big dog (albeit he was barking at butterflies at times), he made me laugh. As a young couple, we didn’t have any pets and were really thinking about a getting a dog, but knew the commitment and expense that would be. Our daughter was only 1 year old and we wanted to have a dog with a great temperament around children too. When Buster had puppies with our other good friend’s mini dachshund, Sammie, we got the awesome privilege and gift to pick our first puppy…what a special gift Skipper has been to us. We picked Skipper out of the rest of the litter, because he ran to us and was so loving; he “skipped” he was so happy. Being a huge perfectionist (which isn’t a good thing a lot of times), I read lots of puppy books to try to learn the proper way to potty train him, crate train him and how to play with him to be the best puppy he could be. It sure takes a lot of patience to potty train a puppy, but Skipper and I made it through and he still comes and “tells” me with his eyes and little whine when he needs to go outside.

Skipper January 2007

Anytime you sit down, Skipper is always there to keep you company right beside you. You can’t feel lonely long if Skipper’s able to be there. He will lick you to let you know how much you are loved, if he gets any chance 🙂 I am thankful for Skipper’s clean-up duty that he took upon himself when all of my children were in highchairs….he would jump up there and clean any food particles up and of course take care of the floor for me (but he had to go on diet food to watch his waistline when he started that habit). What a great dog he is, his tail is always wagging!

Skipper is brave too…one day when walking in our suburban neighborhood, two dogs came running out of their yard toward my 4 year old daughter who was just ahead of me a ways with Skipper on the leash. Skipper jumped in between her and the dogs to protect her causing him to get bitten and scratched on his little belly that he exposed in a submissive way to the other dogs. My daughter still remembers that day and still talks about Skipper’s bravery.

2004-Skipper and the Children

Next Sammy came into our lives. I went to a little party at a friend’s house and heard about a dog that needed to find a new home. He was still only a puppy of less than a year and for some reason I just fell in love with him before even meeting him. Of course, I talked with my family and we had to talk with the landlord to see if it would be OK to have an extra dog in our rental. When we got the go ahead from the landlord (even though it would be $50 extra rent per month), I asked the owner if we could see how Sammy fit with our family for a few days before making a decision. Sammy is a cockapoo which is a lot different than our little daschund; he would need to be groomed when his hair got too long and curly. We were a little nervous about grooming and the commitment and money that would take, plus his fluffy feet did bring in more mud than Skipper’s little feet ever did. But, Sammy was so fun and full of life. Well, when he wasn’t sleeping that is, he was tired at first…our busy family of six gave him a lot of excitement. He fit in well with our family, he loved to go on car rides, walks and just run around with the children while they played outside…he was sure fast! We decided to get him after talking with my mother-in-law who encouraged me that he would make a great family member. Sammy likes to stay by me most of the day, he’s my “entourage”, even sleeping at the foot of my bed most nights. He also alerts me to any noises outside, using his awesome hearing in those fluffy soft ears of his. At first, he didn’t like vacuums or blue things and would bark at them, but he is not as afraid anymore. He is a cuddly teddy bear type of dog and the grooming has been taken on by my husband. When Sammy starts looking like a sheep, we give him a haircut. Thankfully, the children love to give the dogs baths, so that has been a blessing to keep him nice and clean. We also use towels to wipe their feet at the door during muddy seasons.

Not long after getting Sammy (on the left), Grandma Mc visits with her rescue, Beau ~ 2007

Sammy was a puppy and went through a chewing stage for a long time…he liked/likes to play with the children a lot!

Silly Sammy playing with Gladiolus, probably trying to chew her footie feet. He was a chew-er. 2007
Sammy has mellowed a bit in is middle age…he doesn’t chew everything, yay! He still loves to run and have fun, especially on the sledhill with the children. 2012

Our Great Pyrenees, Anna, came into our lives a year after we moved to our house out here. We realized we needed help to watch our goats, chickens and ducks and protect them from marauding foxes, coyotes and roaming dogs. Anna is our awesome livestock guardian dog who allows us to rest easy at night knowing that she is watching out for our animals as they sleep in their beds at night. It is Anna who allows us to come home a little later than dark when our chickens are sleeping on their roosts trusting that no predators are coming to get them; Anna has deterred those predators from even trying with her vigilant barks and patrolling runs around the pasture. Anna grew up with some friends of ours until they realized that she needed more work to do to be happy as they were busy building a house and there weren’t many animals on their farm at the time to watch over for Anna to feel useful; she wanted to work. A mutual friend had heard that I was looking for a guardian, because our goats had just had a big scare from a random dog running them around in the pasture; it was frightening how quick the goats could have been killed had we not been home and scared the dog away.

When we first introduced Anna to her new home, Nov 2008. She’s beautiful.

When we brought Anna home at the end of 2008, she fit in with us right away; she is very good around our goats, chickens, ducks, cats and Skipper and Sammy. I seriously love her and appreciate her work that she does for us on a daily basis. She usually takes the night shift and sleeps in the sun during the daytime. If its raining, she will sleep in the barn on the straw and the goats respect her space. The goats don’t respect her food; however, so we have to feed her away from them or she will let them eat all of her food out of deference to them as her charge (even though it would be bad for her and them, she is that sweet, so we have to protect her food from those silly, greedy goats).

Anna is very smart and instinctively protective. Our first winter she was here was the first winter it got snowy enough to sled down our hill. My son, Cactus Jack, had just turned 5 and we had explained that he wasn’t to go on the pond as it wasn’t safe to walk on or around. I stepped into the barn to watch a hen laying an egg and came back out to the pasture hill. My son had walked on the pond telling by his little footprints on the snow covered ice, but he hadn’t been alone; Anna’s footprints were right beside his. Thankfully, they were light enough that they hadn’t fallen through the ice. I am still thankful for Anna’s watchful eyes when mine weren’t there, yes I have mom-guilt for those few minutes I was in the barn and I am still grateful that there isn’t more to that story to tell. I just love Anna and her love and care to all of us.

Anna and Petunia Fall 2011

August 2011 brought Marmaduke into our lives. On our way home from church, we found him walking down the center of a country road. He was very skinny and staggering a bit, we didn’t even know what he was, he was so large we thought he might of been a small horse who was loose on the road. We drove up beside him and talked to him, he looked so skinny. I jumped out of the truck’s passenger seat and opened the back gate and told him to jump in if he wanted to come with us, he hopped right in. We drove to neighboring houses to see if he belonged to them; he didn’t want to get out and they didn’t open their doors. We decided he needed some food, water and rest so we brought him home for a respite. He had sores on his feet from traveling, open sores on his hips from being so skinny, scratches on various parts of his body and he was very thin. My children named him Marmaduke right then, cautioned by us that we didn’t know if he had an owner that was missing him somewhere. We didn’t even know what kind of dog he was, because his hair looked too long to be a greyhound’s…they are supposed to have slick, short hair like Skipper’s. We took him to the vet after letting him rest for a day at our house and after checking him for tattoos and chips, the vet agreed he was a sighthound, a greyhound. Marmaduke had no chips or tattoos and we held our breath standing in the vet’s office that we may have a new family member. We had done some research and learned a bit about greyhounds and knew that they needed to be indoor dogs because of their short hair, plus we learned other characteristics that we were able and willing to adjust to if/when we found out that he didn’t belong to anyone else. The vet called the greyhound rescue nearby to ask if he belonged to them, since we had found him close to their home; he didn’t belong to them, but they would be happy to take him, if we didn’t want him. My children and I all exclaimed that we wanted him, we had already fallen in love with his sweetness and we wanted to take care of him. He was ours and we were happy to nurse him back to health.

Thumbs up, Marmaduke gets to stay with us! Aug 2011

Marmaduke slowly regrew his hair (his hair was long since he hadn’t had any new growth in awhile due to his body being under stress) and his sores got better. He also had a case of whipworms and hookworms which took about 8 weeks to get rid of, about 4 trips to the vet every other week for worming meds and collecting and disposing of each of his bowel movements to keep the worms from spreading to us or our other animals; parasites are a constant battle around a farm and I didn’t want to add to their population.

Marmaduke after one of his many vet visits to deworm him, he is happy here, I think he’s smiling.

Marmaduke is better now, healthy and very energetic, he’s our morning alarm clock…we haven’t had to use one since he started sleeping in our room at night, he wants to get up and GO!. He loves to go on trail walks with Pat in the morning and he even gets to play with Anna sometimes too, before the goats wake up, he kind of finds them fun to run with, so he isn’t trusted with the farm animals off the leash. He likes to show off how fast he can run to Anna, he’s funny.

Marmaduke looking better and loving Pat

Marmaduke gets afraid of lightning and thunderstorms, but we have started tying a towel around him like a cape and it makes him feel safer…I want to make him a cape with an “M” on it, so he can look like Super-Marmaduke. He likes to sleep on his cozy bed cushion and he loves to give hugs, he’s such a loving dog, it makes me wonder where he came from and if they miss him. He’s a sweet boy and we are so glad that he is in our lives.

Charlie on the first night here after almost hitting him on the road. He was flea bitten and ridden and had sick eyes that needed cleaning.

At the end of October 2011, I almost hit little Charlie with the truck within inches of his life. I swerved to miss the little guy in the middle of the dark road and I still remember his eyes looking back at me that moment before it could have been a horrible outcome, still makes me shudder. Fortunately, I missed him and ended up picking him up out of the road while making traffic slow down. I called our neighbor to see if she knew whose dog it was, she didn’t but had seen a dog like that a few miles away a few days before I found him. We put up signs and took him in, the children decided his name would be Charlie, I just heard the other name in contention was “Swerve”…Charlie fits him better. He was flea bitten pretty bad and the vet gave him his shots and thinks he is around 2 years old. He was “fixed”, so we figured someone was missing him. We called around and drove to ask if he belonged to people who had advertised missing dogs. We decided to give it a month until we could officially welcome him into the family. It was right around Thanksgiving when we made the announcement; he was in the McCartney family.

Marmaduke and Charlie hang out on Marmaduke’s bed

Charlie loves helping Pat in the morning chores around the farm. He is good around the chickens, ducks and goats. He took a while to warm up, but now he zooms out the door for his morning chores and walk with Pat and Marmaduke. Charlie doesn’t need a leash, he runs around and then comes back to check on Pat and starts sounding like a snorting little piggie when he gets really worked up and energized; he’s so funny and cute. Charlie doesn’t like lots of commotion and likes to go in his crate for security. After he was here for 2 months, he got brave enough to come out to be with us on Christmas day and sit on our laps…he doesn’t like floor threshold changes, I don’t know if he had ever been inside before.

The first time Charlie came out of the kitchen himself, he doesn’t like changes in floor texture and is working up his courage. Dec 2011

He still doesn’t trust our son, although Cactus Jack hasn’t done anything to cause Charlie’s distrust. I wonder if Charlie was around a boy that wasn’t very gentle? I hope that one day Charlie feels safe around all of us here. He is a happy, bouncy joyful reminder that going outside to take care of our outside animals is fun and exciting every day! Charlie is our chore cheerleader!

I read someone write that having a dog is expensive and I agree, having 5 dogs is also expensive. It may seem that we have it easy and that’s why we have these 5 dogs, but we have to budget just like most families, it’s not easy. These dogs are in our family and we take that commitment to them seriously and pray that we can always provide for them until theirs, or our, dying day. Yes, it costs money and time to keep these dogs healthy and happy, but what they contribute is great too and I believe they make all our family’s lives fuller for their being a part of it.

Making a Small Ironing Board Using a TV Tray

Not sure where this idea came from, I’m sure it wasn’t my original idea (don’t know who to give the idea credit to), but I have never seen a tutorial, so hopefully this is helpful to someone out there. I like to paper-piece when I am quilting and that process can take some ironing in between lots of little pieces, so I thought a small little ironing board would be helpful and convenient to have and use right beside my sewing machine. I used an old wooden TV tray, some extra cotton batting and some fabric to make a nice, small, personal ironing board.

I used old Warm and Natural Batting from another quilt project…keep those scraps, they come in handy. This tray was from Goodwill and we had been using it for school before this, yay for repurposing.
My husband helped me and decided to take the hardware off the bottom of the tray…I wouldn’t have done that, cause I am lazy and don’t care. I’m glad that he wanted it to last longer, so he unscrewed all of the hardware.
We used a stapler to staple the batting to the bottom of the tray and left the corner “ears” to deal with next.
We “cut” the ears a bit diagonally to take the bulk out before stapling the corners.
Stapling the batting corners down.
I had bought some neat fabric at the local box store when it was on sale, this is thick fabric, but I think any cotton would work well (something that can take the iron heat). We stapled it down just like we did the batting…and left these “ears” at the corner to deal with.
We didn’t cut the fabric at the corners (but you can), we just chose to for the batting (so it wouldn’t be bunchy underneath). We “opened” the ears like this to staple them down nice and smooth around the corners of the table.
When the ear is opened and folded down, it looks like this.
Then just staple it down.
We put plenty of staples to make it secure.
Putting the legs back on the table. We put our tray on upside down at first (my fabric was directional, so it made a difference…just keep an eye on that if you want your fabric to be right side up when the tray is folded down.)
Putting the other hardware on…this is the rest for the leg…this isn’t the safest table around (it can close easily while being moved) so be careful if you have little ones around.
Yay, it’s finished and it works great! Thanks to my husband for the awesome help!

My Personal 12 for 2012 – Quilty Goals

Jen Ofenstein's 12 for 2012 large graphic

Jen Ofenstein

over at

and lots of other places too 🙂  came up with this great idea…try to get motivated to get our UFOs (Un Finished Objects) finished in 2012, here’s her blogpost describing the details Jennifer’s 12 for 2012 blogpost.  I loved the idea and I have A LOT of quilty UFO’s in my closet.  Jen even said that we could use her awesome graphics on our blogs, thanks Jen…I am still new to this bloggy thing, so any help I can get is so great 🙂


Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

January 2012 Project 1/12

Bagladies Quilt Club Quilt Blocks- (2010)

  • 2011 Status – Through 2010 and into 2011, I got to make a block for each lady every month using a new technique that we learned throughout the year. At the end in March 2011, I got to be surprised with the quilt blocks made just for me. It was wonderful to be so loved and thought of; each block was made with love thinking about my own interests and family. I learned a lot that year, it was my first time learning a lot of the techniques and I enjoyed it.
  • 2012 Goal – The year 2011 has been the hardest year of my life and I really fell off the sewing train, even though I enjoy it so much. It was emotional reasons that kept me from sewing and having fun, plus it was difficult to accept the love that this quilt represents. But, I have decided this quilt needs to be my first to finish in Jan 2012, just because I need to accept the love that it is to me and that I do deserve to experience and feel that.
  • Update: Progress on this quilt top can be seen here.

    Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

    February 2012 Project 2/12

    Small “Hamster” Batik Quilt (2009)

  • 2011 Status – I didn’t even touch these blocks in 2010 and 2011. These were a block of the month 2009 at a quilt store that I try to go to when I am in town visiting the doctor, but I felt bad that I didn’t get the last two block instructions for the last months. They used Thangles, which I don’t like anymore (they work fine, but after learning a quicker way to make half square triangles, I gave up on Thangles and got bummed about the little quilt, that my husband lovingly refers to as a “hamster” quilt.
  • 2012 Goal – I would like to make my own blocks (I’m not sure how many more I need to make to make a small quilt (for a babydoll or a wallhanging). I would like to give it to my daughter, Gladiolus, who has a pillow that I made out the same color fabric last winter 2011. I need to make a border and backing for it as well. I have enough batting from other quilt scraps to use and will probably piece the backing. I will make a hanger on the back if my daughter wants it as a wallhanging.
  • Here is the finished February 12 for 2012 project! Woohoo! I even wrote on the back with permanent marker which I never usually remember to do when I am finally finished.

    Mini Batik Quilt is finished and Gladiolus is happy!

    Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

    March 2012 Project 3/12

    Starlight Block of the Month 2011

  • 2011 Status – I made only a few of these, I thought they would look neat using my daughter’s favorite colors of purple and blues…but the instructions were poorly written and the one on the left side of the picture was so baggy, I got fed up. I still went and got the fabric every month and I even bought most of the finishing kit…I still need to get the binding for my kit though I just remembered. I think I just need to rework that one on the left, quilting it will only make it more wrinkly :/
  • 2012 Goal – I want to finish the blocks and put it together and quilted in March and it would be great to give to my daughter for her birthday in April.
  • Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

    April 2012 Project 4/12

    KidsPlay T-shirt quilt (2011)

  • 2011 Status – My oldest daughter graduated from the KidsPlay, Inc community theater in Spring 2011 and we started making her t-shirt quilt then hoping to have it finished shortly after graduation. We got the last t-shirt that we were missing and we have already put interfacing on most of the t-shirts
  • 2012 Goal – I would like to finish this T-shirt quilt for my oldest daughter and make sure that I am saving my youngest children’s t-shirts for this express purpose too (it’s hard to come by old show shirts, I have found). Getting these shirts all faced, buying the sashing, backing and quilting it is my goal for April 2012.
  • Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

    May 2012 Project 5/12

    Philodendron’s Surprise Flowery Quilt (2011)

  • 2011 Status – I really liked this recipe from Moda’s website by Amanda Herring. I don’t even remember when I first saw it, I think I heard Amanda Herring on Pat Sloan’s radio show the year before? and checked her recipe out on the website, there are lots of cool freebie patterns on Moda Bakeshop.
  • 2012 Goal – My second daughter wanted a flowery quilt and I would love to put this one together, quilted and bound (I already have the top finished and have a green minky fabric backing and the cotton batting) for my daughter’s birthday in May 2012.
  • Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

    June 2012 Project 6/12

    Summer Quilt Block of the Week (2010)

  • 2011 Status – I didn’t touch this quilt-top in 2011 either, my sister and I had worked on it together in the Summer 2010 following Brady Sparrow’s awesome tutorial and instructions on her free quilt block of the week. IT was free then, I had to buy the last pattern on etsy, it doesn’t show up on Etsy right now, but you can probably contact her if you are interested in the pattern. I finished the quilt top in Dec 2010. I did piece the backing (using leftover fabric) in the early months of 2011…I found all of these fabrics in the remnant section of the quilt store, SCORE…and I was making it for myself.
  • 2012 Goal – I would like to have my Summer quilt put together and quilted and bound in the month of June 2012.

    Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

    July 2012 Project 7/12

    Panel that I liked and thought I would make for someone (2010)

  • 2011 Status – I saw this panel and thought it would make a cute present. In fall of 2011, I tried to quilt it using the John Flynn Quilt Frame, but I think the panel was too narrow for the frame and the tension was weird. Plus, I was using my sewing machine that isn’t adjustable with the pressure foot pressure, so I got totally discouraged and stopped. I really want to get better at free motion quilting and like Leah’s website The Free Motion Quilting Project
  • 2012 Goal – Just quilt the thing without the frame and decide who I want to give it to, or what to do with it. I have the backing and batting already, it would be a wallhanging.
  • Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

    August 2012 Project 8/12

    Placemats that I bought for a Friend in 2009…I can’t find the panels to take a picture, but her birthday is in August and I want to find those things, put borders on them, quilt them and give them to her for her birthday at the end of August.

    Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

    September 2012 Project 9/12

    Project of Doom (2011)

  • 2011 Status – I began this free paper piecing block of the week following Jennifer Ofenstein’s great tutorials and group Project of Doom Free Paper Pieced Patterns. When I began in Jan 2011, I thought it would be finished at the beginning of the summer and I wanted to give it to a friend, but it was like a 30 week time frame. I really wanted to get it finished to possibly display at our local Arts and Crafts fair this fall, but never got it finished. Again, I only have about 6 blocks left to put together, but I have just fallen off the sewing band wagon. I still want to give this away to my friend, but I may ask her if we can display it at the local library and the arts and craft fair still.
  • 2012 Goal – I want to finish the last 6 blocks, put the top together and figure out the border…I thought this red would look neat, but now I have doubts. I will probably piece the back using the extras from the blocks that I can put together. I would love to have all this done in September 2012 (it’s kind of a fall-ish quilt) and have time to enter it in the local quilt fair.
  • Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

    October 2012 Project 10/12

    Philodendron’s Lap Quilt (2010)

  • 2011 Status – I don’t think I helped Philodendron on this at all this last year, we were almost finished and got off track…all she needs is the binding finished.
  • 2012 Goal – Up until this point, my daughter has sewn the binding herself (the whole quilt has been her first quilt and she has done most of the work, but I may help her, so she can be finished and feel her accomplishment…after putting this list of 12 in 2012 in order, I really don’t think this has to wait until this point; in fact I want to go do it now! I feel bad that it has been put off. Mom guilt is tough :/ I sometimes get a bad case of it.
  • *Update 1/3/12 – Finished Philodendron’s quilt, she is happy 🙂

    Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

    November 2012 Project 11/12

    My first Block of the Month – Batiks (2009)

  • 2011 Status – I didn’t touch these once in 2011. These were my first sewing project since I tried to sew a bit in high school and made stuffed rabbits for my sisters with a lot of my mother-in-law’s help (well, before my husband and I got married, thanks Nancy again for your patience and help!) My sister, who had been wanting to quilt with me and I am so glad that we did start this journey, and I did these at the same time at a local quilt shop (they gave us some of the colors and we could pick one other color) and I got the pattern to place them on point and I cannot find it anywhere.
  • 2012 Goal – I have lost the pattern and am hoping that by November 2012, I will have found it and can put this quilt together (or just figure out how to put it together on point). I have the backing and sashing material. I think I will use the extra blocks to make pillows or something. These were my first ever pieced blocks and some of them are rough, but I still like them and want to remember them.
  • Jen Ofenstein's 12 in 2012 logo

    December 2012 Project 12/12

    Wool Applique Quilt 2010

  • 2011 Status – I didn’t touch these once in 2011. I went to one class about an hour away in the summer 2010 and thought I would continue to go and finish this quilt, but I never got back there. I loved the bright colors and soft wool and felt feel. I have collected wool sweaters from goodwill and garage sales and can’t wait to get this together
  • 2012 Goal – I have the pattern for this and all of my foundation pieces sewn together. Now I just need to cut out all of the snowmen (it’s a calendar quilt with 12 blocks) and begin piecing them. It would be fun to do one every month this year, but I think I have my work cut out for me…I will try to work on this in December and see how far I get. I guess it’s good to shoot for the moon, cause if I miss, I’ll at least reach the stars, ha!



    Marriage Ramblings – One Lady’s Perspective

    Ladies, your marriage connection is as much your responsibility as it is your husband’s. Whoa, I said it. I have had some notes that I wrote out almost a year ago that I wanted to hash out and I feel like today might be that day.

    Being married 17 years to my husband hasn’t been all roses and chocolate. In fact, if I wanted to I could dish and make it seem like my husband is far from perfect, but I won’t. You know why? Well, besides being rude to him (and humiliating to me; I chose him in the first place, mind you 🙂 ), I would never want him to dish about me. I am so far from perfect (who isn’t);I am so glad that he chooses to respect me and our marriage and love me even with my glaring imperfections. But, you see, if I dwelt on my husband’s failings to me, if I talked about it with everyone I came in contact with, even as a “joking” manner, that seed of discontent would grow up inside me to become a noxious weed that could take many forms.

    I am close to 40 years old now and I have had the pleasure of seeing many of my friends married at their lovely ceremonies back in our twenties and now, I have had the sadness and grief of seeing more than a few of my friends go through divorce. Do I bring this up to make anyone who has gone through a divorce feel any guilt and shame, no way!! I bring this up, because I am talking to myself about my marriage and any others who are married, too (including if it’s your second or more marriage). Heck, I’m even talking to you single people out there, just in case you do choose to get married some day.

    Let me tell you a secret that I have found to happiness: happiness is not based on the choice of your life partner, but on your own ability to take a hold of your own contentment. My heart must be guarded (I must be careful), the Bible verse in Proverbs 4:23, Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life comes to my mind. Is it a question of the chicken and the egg…did I choose someone to respect me, because I respected myself (guarded my heart) or did I teach him the way to treat me (also by guarding my heart)? I’m not sure about that and it kind of gets into circular reasoning that scrambles my brain a bit, so I will move on.

    I guess I think about these types of marriage and relationship issues often, because I have 4 children who may get married one day and may have children. I would really like them to have a good and happy relationship and would like to help them to prepare their own minds to choose happiness themselves, not wait for someone else to “give” happiness to them (which I don’t think is even possible or fair to expect from someone).

    We ladies need to take care of ourselves; physically and mentally we push ourselves to the brink and fall (no wonder, because we are so close to the edge)…the fall at first feels freeing. We need to give ourselves margin in all areas of our life and admit where we need a rest.

    Emotionally, we need connection…and we think that our husbands will “get” what we need like those guys in the movies do. Well, those guys are reading a script ladies. Here’s my view on my husband (who is a very smart person), he’s like a little guy. Would I expect my 8 year old son to read my mind? Of course not! Then why would I expect my husband to read my mind? He can’t. I’m guessing your husband can’t read yours either…of course, they learn to try to figure it out, they just want us to be happy. Yep, that’s all they wanted when they first married us, for us to be happy. Depending on how your husband has been treated over these years (he may be like a little dog who has been kicked all his life and will have a hard time trusting again) he may respond quicker than another husband, so I am not saying this is a cure-all. But, we need to treat them with gentleness and kindness, you know…how you treat a little puppy (or how you should). Yes, I have learned that part the hard way, my husband had a hard time trusting me for awhile, because of the way I would respond to him (or not respond) when he wanted to share his heart…I need to be plugged in to recognize when that is happening; there isn’t a neon sign that goes off to realize that his “sharing of his day” is actually him sharing his feeling of stress or something like that underlying the mundane details.

    If we aren’t careful while needing that emotional connection, we may think that we might be able to find it in a new relationship, the one that will most assuredly bring that “woo” feeling at first. If we don’t take the time and talk with our husband about our hurts (and listen to their hurts as well, the street goes both ways), our feelings will bottle up, until there is such a gap between us emotionally, it’s as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon. And while looking at that expanse with a hammer in our hands to build a bridge, a nice man walks by and flirts with us. Guard your heart. Reality is hard work, escapism is everywhere…even in relationships. Even in my mind and thoughts, I could think about an escape, but I must guard my heart.

    As a biology major, I do believe the biological process courses through women’s bodies and minds in much the same way as a man’s. But, women have a different “pull” and I have never heard it discussed before (and won’t go into greatly here and now). I have heard talks and seen many books that discuss the guarding that a man must place on his heart and mind. A woman deals with the same type of stuff, but different. It seems like it may be some biological reasons that contribute to a woman’s choice to escape (even mentally), but I am not making an excuse either. I just think that at this age and seeing the divorces all around and knowing some of my own anecdotes, maybe biology could be an explanation and it’s definitely something to be careful to watch out for in our own lives. I know that I need to take care and keep margins in my life, so that I am careful not to fall off the edge.

    Making Apple Cider Vinegar, our Journey

    Folk Medicine Book

    I’ve had this little book for a long time, Folk Medicine by D.C. Jarvis. It’s a book about a home doctor out in Vermont that was called on for people and animals back in the day.  He used Apple Cider Vinegar for a lot of ailments. He also talks about honey, kelp and castor oil. I want to include his table of contents (its a book with 192 pages). I found this at a garage sale and see them sometimes.

    His table of contents contains in chapter 5, “Your racial pattern and Vermont Folk Medicine” and I just wanted to point out that his “racial pattern” was speaking of where your family came from originally, like he points out Nordic people who ate lots

    Table of Contents for Folk Medicine

    of seafood have had a more difficult time adapting to land based foods, like wheat and animal meats.

    Personally, I didn’t see any evidence of racism in his words and wouldn’t want to recommend a book that promoted anything of that sort. If he were to write this book today, I hope that he wouldn’t have used such a pejorative term.

    Apparently, apple cider vinegar has some good minerals as well as an alkalizing property, which I personally have never understood since it is an acid…something to study more in the future I guess.

    Apple trees were here before we moved here and in fall 2010, I thought I could give it a try to make a batch of apple cider vinegar.  I found the “recipe” on the internet, but of course, haven’t been able to find it since.  I am pretty sure that all I did was use the good peelings (not bruised or bug bitten) and the good cores (no wormy-ness) and put them into a large glass jar.  I wish I had a crock that isn’t see through, but any that I have ever bought at a garage sale ended up with cracks in them.  So, we used what we have.

    Here’s the jist of what I put into the two gallon jugs (I didn’t measure anything):

    • Good Apple Peels and Cores (I used the apples themselves to dry)
    • Some clean cold water to cover it all up
    • Molasses, I’m not sure of the type…I got it at the store and I think it is unsulfured (you could use sugar too, it’s just extra energy for the bacteria to work)
    • A “glug” of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (because it has the “mother” in it…it helps get the vinegar cultured and ready to go)

    Then I covered the top with cheesecloth and tied it up.  You really want to keep it tight or “vinegar” flies, aka fruit flies will come and have a swimming party in your growing vinegar.

    I put my jugs in a northern unheated room in my house and waited for about 3 -4 months and I noticed the “mother” forming on the top.  I can’t really explain the mother…it’s a thick “skin” that forms at the top of the vinegar and it is called a SCOBY which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (which I think is too cool).  I mean really, I always wonder who figured this stuff out, “Hey, Mildred, this layer of tough slimy-ness seems to have turned our wine into a lovely salad dressing?!”  OK, it probably wasn’t like that, more of a grandma showing her grandaughter that the “sour” wine isn’t bad, but can be repurposed…sort of the ultimate recycling 🙂

    I could go on and on on how I am amazed at the lovely microbes that help us everyday, heck we are mostly microbes in our guts.  Too bad the “bad” microbes get all the publicity, maybe SCOBYs need a new PR machine?  But I digress.

    Our unheated room smelled like an alcohol factory (or what I imagine one to smell like, I guess I haven’t actually been around an alcohol factory) for a while which makes since as the peelings were fermenting first and that alcohol is what the vinegar microbes likes to eat.  That’s why wine needs to stay corked, so those microbes don’t start breaking it down to a lovely vinegar.  Depending on the alcohol, the vinegar will be different: white wine turns to white wine vinegar, beer turns to malt vinegar…neat huh?

    Around the end of January, I noticed it was time to bottle our ACV (that’s the acronym for apple cider vinegar and I think it makes it seem so NASA-ish to use acronyms).  We made youtube videos of the bottling process and took a close look at the mother.  I thought I would try to freeze the mother for later; I think I read that somewhere, but that did NOT work, I killed her.  It took me awhile, but later I realized that the mother was growing on the bottles ACV (we didn’t pasteurize it), so we could use that mother as a sustainable culture if we made more ACV in the future.

    ***Also, I think that my vinegar is stronger than what you would buy in the store…I dilute it with water in 1 part vinegar 2 parts water.  I say this because one of the youtubers I follow said her dad made some ACV when she was growing up and she took a taste of it and it literally burned her mouth because it was so acidic.  So, take care.  Mine wasn’t that strong, but I also didn’t start with a strong alcohol (sugar content determines that, I believe).

    We still have the ACV in jars in our pantry and I use it for anything I need ACV for.  I still haven’t used it for the animals like I want to…I read in that book that spraying ACV on their hay will increase milk production, but I haven’t tried it yet.  I’ll let you know if I do.  I will link the playlist of ACV bottling here:

    Video Playlist for Bottling Our Apple Cider Vinegar

    People have asked for a video of the “recipe” that we used…I wasn’t “doing” videos back then, and didn’t use my apples this year. Fortunately, they didn’t go to waste, since the chickens and ducks love them. Just didn’t get to it this fall.

    Carla Emery-My Small Tribute to Her

    My Ninth Edition of The Encyclopedia of Country Living

    I sure wish I would have had the opportunity to meet Carla Emery at one of her speaking enagagements or her writing workshops that she set up across the country. But, at least I have met her in her writing. My first major “farm” book that I bought was The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. I remember buying it while living in Texas before planting my first garden out in our backyard. I believe it was around 1998-1999 that I found it at the local Barnes and Nobles bookstore down the road; it was wrapped in plastic and I couldn’t wait to get into it and read…and boy, did I pour through that thing, flitting from one subject to another, finding her books that she recommended at the local used bookstores and garage sales sometimes. Dreaming, that’s what I was doing, dreaming of our land…the possibility of being a producer of our family’s food. It was ironic that I had that dream, as I really wasn’t a great cook, or that interested in cooking (I still am not much of one either). I don’t remember where I had first heard about Carla’s book, maybe a forum or an email group? I can’t remember, maybe it was from a thread at Whoever introduced me to her, I am forever grateful and changed.

    Since moving to our small farm, I haven’t opened the book much; I think I am in mourning (oh, I’ve recommended it to many of my friends and family, loaning it out for long periods of time, but I don’t really want to look at it myself). You see, I miss Carla, she passed away in October 2005, not long after we had moved up here to Indiana. But, I also miss my youthful “dreaming” self too, I think. It sure is easier to dream than to do, you know. When “doing”, it is more obvious to see my character flaws: my impatience, my self anger at my failures and mistakes, my laziness. Wow, I didn’t know that this post was going to become so introspective, but that’s what Carla also taught me…share, let it out. Her writing, although very fact oriented also contains her heart; her journals through her time having her young children, being happily married until her divorce and her singleness (she eventually remarried). She shared it and it somehow changed me. I am a more somber person since reading the other book she wrote, Secret, Don’t Tell. It is a much more sobering book, but as she states in the introduction of the book it is to bring the Light into the darkness of a very scary subject. I guess that through reading that book, I have matured and am not as trusting as I once was; but thankfully, focusing on our land and striving toward being producers, not only consumers, is making me happier and less apt to sulk and brood.

    Just looking at The Encyclopedia of Country Living now (I took some pictures of its “well worn-ness”), I see where I could re-read more and take in more details that I didn’t recognize or understand until now. She has a whole section on lard, which is more interesting to me, since I have made my first batch of rendered lard using the crockpot method that I found from this awesome tutorial:

    Carla even has fun tests and exams to see what you learned as you read the book, maybe I could see where I measure up to those tests and see where I can improve and use more of our local resources to produce what we might need around here.

    Maybe it’s time for me to dream again, knowing that the nightmares of my personal character flaws and the bad stuff that exists in this world might be around the corner to make me jump at times, but choosing to dream despite that real possibility. I think I’m off to flip through my Encyclopedia and think about my little farm and how to improve it.

    Thank you Carla.

    Cutting Costs-Haircuts at Home

    I think I feel just as happy to cut his hair as he does to have it done :)
    Pat After A Much Needed Haircut

    My husband and I got married before our last year in college. We had about 3 dollars every week that was “discretionary” for each of us…and that was after cutting expenses and being strong budgetters. We lived in married student housing and we ate lots of ramen noodles (still do, just not every day). One way that I decided that we could cut expenses is that I could learn to cut Pat’s hair. At that time, back in 1994, his haircuts were about $12-$15 and he needed one at least every 6 weeks.

    I don’t think that I would have even thought cutting my husband’s hair was a possibility if he hadn’t gotten the WORST haircut ever one night while visiting my family over a weekend. When he came out from behind the wall, he looked like an eraserhead, bad. It was so bad, my younger sister, who is a very easy going person told the lady the haircut was unsatisfactory and we needed it fixed. I think I was so in shock I couldn’t say anything. The manager made him look better than he looked, but he still wasn’t “right”.

    When Pat’s parents asked what I wanted for a Christmas present that first Christmas we were married, I asked for a haircut set…the one from Walmart with clippers, scissors and it even had a video. It was my favorite present and one that gave back over and over. Of course, the first time I cut Pat’s hair, it took like 2 hours. And the haircut wasn’t the eraserhead look, yay! I even checked out books at the library for home haircutting back then and learned some ideas to make him look even better, nowadays there are even good YouTube videos (I found a great way to cut my daughter’s long layers on a cool and informative video, I haven’t ever checked to see if there is a video showing a man’s haircut).

    Pat Really Needed a Haircut

    I now have bought some nicer scissors at Sally’s Beauty Supply, which make a difference in the ease the hair cuts. The only down side is that I feel total guilt when I haven’t taken the time to cut my husband’s hair. I don’t even have any good excuse, he sets up and cleans up the hair cutting “station”, which is just a canvas tarp on the floor with the chair in the middle, close to the electrical outlet for the clippers.

    Some husbands wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice their hair to their wife’s learning curve and I totally understand that, this cost cutting measure isn’t for every family. It has worked for us and it may work for you.

    Making Nuc Candyboards for Over-wintering

    This winter is the first time we have ever had nucs going into the winter. Maybe some of my gentle readers are not familiar with a “nuc”. It is a shortened term for a nucleus of a bee hive, meaning it has a queen and some frames with honeycomb and bees, but it is still young and small in size. Because of its age and size, the nuc didn’t have enough time to store the quantity of honey it takes to make it through the winter (honey is the carbs of the bee world, they need it to have energy to stay alive). We humans think of winter as just lasting through February, but to bees it is a little longer due to waiting for the first nectar plants to bloom (maple trees being some of the first). Those rainy days of March and April keep the bees inside too…they hate the rain, so if they can’t harvest their food, they need some reserves at that time as well, even if it isn’t technically winter anymore.

    There are probably many recipes for making nuc candyboards out there and I am not here to say that the recipe that we use is the best, but I got the recipe from a trusted bee mentor, Danny Slabaugh, member of the Michiana Beekeepers Association. Plus I don’t like to reinvent the wheel that someone smarter than me invented already 🙂 Danny is the beekeeper that I bought my nucs from when I first started keeping bees in Spring 2008. I went back to buy nucs in 2009 and 2010 as well…did I go back the two hour drive just because of his bees, well, his bees are healthy and non-medicated…but I’ll share a secret with you. I went back to his place, because he packs the nucs and goes through his apiary (beeyard) with me while I am going around with him asking loads of questions that he patiently answers. I got an education from him each time I spent that time with him. He uses candyboards to get his summer-split nucs through the winter and he lives close to the Michigan state line; I thought these candyboards would probably work for me down here in central Indiana.

    Here is Danny Slabaugh’s candyboard recipe (it was in a word document that we reformatted):

    I enjoy the art of beekeeping as it is always work in process. I make a tray for a standard size hive candy board with the rim made of ¾’X1.875”boards.
    I drill a 2″ hole in the center of a 5.5″ 2X4 placed in the middle of a tray.

    Danny Slabaugh's Picture and Candyboard

    Start with a container that will hold 16 quarts of liquid or more and a good strong stirring device.
    The heat source needs to have twice the BTU that a cook stove burner top would produce.
    Bring one quart of water to full boil
    Add ¼ cup of white vinegar
    Slowly add three five pound bags of white sugar. stirring all the time.
    This will boil down to soft fudgelike candy after 30-40 minutes and needs to reach 242 degrees.
    Add optional ingredients
    stirring all the time.
    1 cup dry powder HFCS
    This will allow you to add five more pounds of dry sugar.
    Stir to soft ball. 242 degrees.
    Turn off heat and stir in 1 cup of honey
    stirring all the time.
    Last whip in one oz of Honey –B- Healthy
    Pour into a mold and cool off.

    Here’s a link to Danny Slabaugh’s recipe on Mel Disselkoen’s website with some more details and pictures.  We found this after making the recipe and this link has more details:

    When we made the candyboards, we used the honey bee healthy and the honey, since we didn’t want to use the HFCS (I guess we didn’t understand the necessity to be able to add more sugar).  We constructed two types of trays to use for the candy board molds. The frame on the left fits on top of a 10-frame hive whereas the frame on the right is designed for a 5-frame hive:

    Empty Candy Board Frames

    The trays are designed to be placed upside-down on top of the hive once the candy in the frame is hardened. This allows the bees to easily access the candy without moving far from the bee cluster. We also drilled a 3/4″ hole in front center of the tray (not shown in photo) and then covered the hole with hardware cloth. This hole provides an easy method for checking the amount of candy consumed by the bees without having to open the hive. The hole will also provide additional ventilation and could be used as a top-entrance in the summer once the candy is completely consumed.

    To heat the sugar, we used an outdoor propane burner that was originally part of a turkey frying system we got at The Home Depot. We used an old pressure-canner for the pan which worked wonderfully since it is so thick and virtually eliminated the tendency for the sugar to scald during heating. We also constructed a long wooden paddle so we could stir the sugar without bending over the pan, but this was more of a convenience than a necessity. We found that the recipe above results in enough candy for a single 10-frame tray or two 5-frame trays.

    It seemed that the candy boards were completely hardened in less than 24-hours.  We placed the small candy boards on each of our nucs a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to check the hive during an unseasonably warm day.  The bees had already discovered the board and had started eating away at the candy.  We just completed construction of a series of full-size candy board frames that we are going to place on a few of our large hives that did not have time to store up enough honey before the foraging season ended. This should provide plenty of carbohydrates for the bees until spring and has provided us with a peace-of-mind that we haven’t had the past couple of winters. Stay warm out there, bees!

    What to share and how much?

    I could barely sleep last night, so much is running around in my brain.  Maybe that’s why writing this all down will be cathartic and I can sleep again past 2am.  I haven’t actually published our blog out into the “real” world, it’s just sitting here with a link from my personal FB page.  So, today I want to “share” it, and I wanted to ask my readers a question, nothing like jumping into asking for feedback already, huh?  OK, here’s my question…we homeschool;  would it make sense to share that aspect of our farm life too?  Our life is all integrated together, so it is tough to separate it into parts anyway, but I don’t know how/if I could share more than homeschool blogs already have out there, and I don’t know how diverse a blog can be and make sense and be “readable” (is that even a word?)?  Again, I am new to this blogging thing and even though it is cathartic to me to write, I really do want to have something that someone may benefit from reading; at least I flatter myself that that could be possible from my brain 🙂

    It’s Friday and sunny outside and we plan on finishing up some winter projects this weekend.  Pat is trying to extend our automatic waterers in our barn (they aren’t insulated ones, just the regular metal ones) which would already be frozen up this time last year.  We are trying to see how long we can go with a new recirculating set-up he is working on.

    Pat also wants to make a few more candyboards to put into our hives that may have low honey reserves (they were some of our newer hive splits from this summer).

    I need to put my duck and chicken stock away that I pressure canned the other day and do general cleaning/organizing around this place.  Plus, I am learning about blogs and SEO packs and analytics too…I have been listening to   5 minutes with Jack and I appreciate his generosity and awesome experience that he gives to start a blog and a business.  I feel like I am taking a class that would have cost a lot of money to get all of the information that he willingly shares (with a few curse words, but that doesn’t bother me (it is mostly just one word), I just share that so it isn’t shocking to anyone.)  What he provides is some great stuff.  I’m off to try to figure out a landing page and some analytics and Woopra right now for my homework.

    Have a great weekend!

    Stepping Out on a (LocustFarms) Limb

    December 1, 2011 – I guess that this is the day I choose to start this blog.  I have been resistant to the idea for many months, maybe years.  It really doesn’t make logical sense (my resistance, hopefully not my blog), as I enjoy reading/learning so much from other people’s blogs and videos and altruistic teaching on the interwebs.  But (and isn’t there always a big “but”), I am a private person who has lots of insecurities…I don’t really want to open myself up to judgment and criticism…but I am beginning to  realize that I am looking at this from the wrong perspective.  Yes, there is criticism and judgement out there in the world, but there is also neat learning opportunities and  encouragement to do even better with the life I have been given as well (kind of like the glass is half full thingie).  So, I am stepping out and doing this for myself and my children, having some posterity and what-not to look back on.  I have never been a journal writer or a diary keeper, but having a farm-ette sure takes a lot of brain power to remember stuff and I think this blog will be my brain dump, a public diary into our goings on and learning curve, and oh, what a steep one it is.