cover pic

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Shopkins Birthday is on the Horizon

It is a very busy week here with substitute teaching, sheep shearing, preparing for company, and celebrating three different birthdays.  I am trying my hardest to figure out a way to honor a 23 year old young woman, a 48 year old man, and a 7 year old little girl on the same day.  It's proving to be a challenge, but it's looking like the whims of the youngest are winning out.  She loves these little Shopkin things that are apparently all the rage right now, and Party City just happened to have all kinds of party goodies devoted to them.  I'll be back here over the weekend or early next week when I will, with any luck, have more time to devote to this subject.  In the meantime, I hope you all are enjoying this last week of April.  Toodles Everyone!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Honest Thoughts on My First Year of Blogging

Favorite place to blog #1: the front porch swing

     Preppy Mountain Farmhouse is one year old today.  I'm not sure what I thought this blog would be like in a year.  I suppose a part of me was afraid that no one but my husband and children would read it, and I would have chucked it by now.  Another part of me had a wild hope that it would be some overnight sensation and propel me effortlessly into some kind of stardom like Ree Drummond/Pioneer Woman.  I really didn't have a set goal in mind.  I just knew blogging was something I'd been contemplating for several years, and I wanted to give it a shot.  It would be a learning experience, an experiment to see if I could do something slightly technical, and be a new creative outlet for me in my free time.  The reality is that this blog has become a meaningful extension of myself.  A little bit of my soul goes into every post, and that has surprised me.  What else surprised me was how much I cared about its success, and I searched the web for other newbie bloggers to see how they were doing.  Unfortunately, I found very little from the inexperienced bloggers who also struggled daily with fears of failing.  So I dedicate this blog post today to any other bloggers just starting out who desperately want to know if what they're experiencing is normal. Bloggers who might be doubting whether or not they should continue doing so.  Bloggers who are looking at their number of followers or pageviews and feeling embarrassed that theirs are just a tiny fraction compared to the blogs they read and follow.  I'm going to put it all out there and let you know you're not alone.
     When I started this blog, I hadn't read any books or taken any classes on blogging.  I seriously started from scratch, and I learned by trial and error along the way.  I was so proud of myself when I changed some settings or templates on Blogger.  I felt like a pro when I registered my own domain name.  And when my first post was published and was out there in cyberspace, I was ecstatic.  But then I started to read about search engine optimization and showing up in directories and Alexa rankings.  I was somewhat terrified of clicking the wrong thing in my layout for fear that I would set myself up to be hacked or kicked off the google search engines, so I was very, very conservative with everything I did with my blog.  When I learned that I wouldn't even be picked up in the search engines because I needed to change my robots.txt, I obsessed about it for days as I researched to figure out what I needed to do.  And every time I had to paste some third party html/javascript for a new widget, I vacillated between being anxious that it wouldn't work and afraid that I had just plugged something viral and dangerous into my blog and laptop.  I have learned more about websites during this year than all the years of my life combined, but I am still discovering so much that I still don't know, and that is humbling.
     Speaking of humbling, stats are another part of blogging that threw me for a loop.  Suddenly, my mood for the day hinged on what my Blogger stats revealed about my most recent post.  I have spent hours on the Internet trying to find out how many pageviews other new bloggers get in order to see if mine were average.  The first time I hit 85 pageviews in a day, I was on cloud 9.  That is, until I learned that most of them occurred all at once from something called referrer spam.  To me, that sounded terrible and scary, and I had no idea what it was.  Thankfully, I did some research before I ever decided to click on those terrible links on my Blogger referrer page.  Once I understood what they were, I soon discovered that any time I get about 20 or more hits to my blog all at once, it doesn't mean a bunch of people are simultaneously reading my blog---it's spam.  Not something to be feared, but something to be aware of and to keep me humble.  So if you scroll down to the bottom of this page and see over 11,000 pageviews so far, just know that many of them are from bots or spammers, not real people.  When I see that many bloggers get this many actual views every day, I am humbled even more.

Favorite place to blog #2: on my front porch rocker from Cracker Barrel

     This leads me to the biggest problem I think I've dealt with concerning blogging:  being obsessed with my stats and comparing my blog to others.  I waited 8 months to install the free Google Analytics tracking into my blog.  I was afraid what those numbers would reveal since I knew that Blogger's pageviews were inflated.  But I felt like I had to know.  G.A. could show me not just pageviews and countries where traffic was coming from, but also daily users and how many were new or repeat visitors.  It could show me the cities they were from, and how much time they spent on my site, and which posts they were going to.  I found myself comparing the Google Analytics stats with my Blogger stats and even with my Feedburner stats, which really just keep track of my subscribers.  I drove myself crazy trying to make sense of them because they never ever matched up, not even when I took the bots and spam out of the mix.  I so wanted to see my numbers skyrocket from legitimate humans who were interested in my blog.  Instead, it has been a very, very gradual increase.  I have finally stopped caring so much about the numbers and instead focus on the individuals who do spend some time on my blog reading a number of pages each session.  They are people from all over the United States and from all over the world.  I'm even more touched when readers take the time to leave comments on my blog or Facebook page or send me an email.  It is exciting to hear from strangers that aren't reading my blog because they feel obligated to as friends or family, but because they actually enjoy it.  Don't get me wrong, Friends and Family, I love to hear from you too!
     As for comparing myself to others...that one is harder to refrain from doing.  I follow some very successful bloggers who have become famous and some lesser known (but still successful) bloggers.  When I see that one of their posts receives hundreds of comments, gets thousands of views, and is shared all over social media, it's hard not to feel envious.  I question what I'm doing wrong or if I should be doing this at all or do I need to start giving away free stuff or what?  My husband always asks me what difference it makes since it was never my goal to make money from blogging.  I suppose it's just the competitive nature in me that wants to feel that I'm among the best at whatever I'm doing.  When you read Pioneer Woman's story and see how she went from blogging about her recipes to having a TV show, published cookbooks, and now an entire line of dishes and cookware sold at Walmart, you can't help thinking, "Wow.  Why couldn't that happen to me?"  Of course, that kind of fame is rare, but even some of the less known bloggers sell their own books or have their own line of home decor or give presentations at conferences and exhibitions.  That really wasn't my plan when I started out, and quite honestly, I guard our family's privacy too much to allow a film crew into our home, but that diva in me comes out sometimes.  This year of blogging has made me evaluate how much popularity I would or wouldn't care to have.  So far with my little blog, that hasn't been an issue though.
     That brings me to the next shocker with blogging success, and that is the time it takes.  Actual blogging only takes me a couple of hours per post.  If I'm adding some links or some research is necessary beforehand, that might add yet another hour.  Lots of photographs means another hour or so loading them to my laptop and editing each one.  None of that was really a surprise.  It's all the other non-writing/photographing stuff that I didn't expect to be a part of blogging.  First, there's sharing your blog on social media.  When I began blogging, I had absolutely no Internet presence.  That's right.  Zippo.  I wasn't on Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat or anything.  It occurred to me right away, however, that how was anyone going to know I even have a blog if I didn't promote it somehow.  So I opened a Facebook page.  A month or two later, I had a page on Pinterest.  Finally this February, I joined Instagram.  I think that's it for me for awhile though because it all takes so much time.  It's not enough to just share your blog post to your accounts.  There's all this give and take on social media.  Reading others' comments and posts is necessary, and commenting, liking, and sharing their pins is common courtesy.  But it all takes time.  Additionally, there is this blog community that exists in cyberspace that was unknown to me when I started blogging.  I had only been regularly visiting two blogs when I began.  I now follow about a dozen.  I love reading their posts, and I leave a comment when I can, and I occasionally share their posts or link to them when I write.  But all of that takes considerable amounts of time too.  The networking aspect of blogging is something I know I need to do more of, but I just haven't figured out how to squeeze in more time to do so.  All of this wasn't even on my radar a year ago.

Favorite place to blog #3: patio table above pool

     Finally, I think the biggest surprise for me is how this blog is morphing into something more open, revealing, and imperfect in a way I had certainly not planned in the beginning.  Yes, I wanted to share aspects of mountain farm living, but with a lot more aesthetically pleasing preppy touches thrown in.  I had no intention of showing anything messy or mundane or unsuccessful.  I really thought the blog would push me to do more classic decorating, more landscaping, try new recipes and home projects, and do more entertaining.  I wanted to create a blog that was beautiful, idyllic, and inspiring.  I never dreamed I'd be showing pictures of my cluttered kitchen, messy dining room, mismatched clothed children, or Pinterest flops.  I think I wanted a blog that would make our life into something perfect.  Something out of the pages of Country Living or a Land's End catalog.  Instead, it's becoming this photo journal of our very imperfect, noisy, busy, big family life that is some eclectic mix of homesteading/farming, and enjoying nature every season, lots of recipes, and the ramblings of a middle-aged blogger/substitute teacher/farmer mom.  Every once in awhile there is some DIY project, decorating, entertaining, fashion post thrown in.  I find myself now seeing my surroundings through a different lens.  I carry my phone, tablet, or camera with me all the time.  When I go for a hike or down to the barn or walk through the woods, something catches my eye and I have to photograph it.  Sometimes a photo inspires an entire post or it gets posted to Instagram.  Suddenly the common, simple, natural surroundings that I live in have become new, and beautiful, and something I feel this desire to share with others.  Instead of making this blog be about a perfect life I want to have, it is transforming into an exhibit of the beautiful, imperfect, real life that I already have.  I find myself stopping more often and really taking in the gifts all around me: the full moon rising over the mountain, wildflowers just beginning to bloom, the colors of the fall leaves, my children building forts in the creek.  All of it seems new somehow.
     So that is why two weeks ago, I renewed my domain name for another year.  I'm checking my stats less.  I'm comparing myself to others far less.  I am enjoying myself more.  I think blogging makes me a better person somehow---more creative, more grateful, more reflective.  And that in and of itself, is success.

     Now for those of you bloggers who are like I was, and you just want to see another new blogger's stats for reassurance, here they are.
Blogger says 11,129 total page views for the year.  783 last month.  43 today.
Feedburner still says I only have an average of 14 subscribers; although, there have been a few more than that most days this month.
Google Analytics shows in the past month: 186 pageviews, 147 sessions, 112 users.
Out of Blogger, Bloglovin, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook combined: 98 followers.
Alexa rank: rose up to around 12 million from over 20 million when I started, but a month ago it was shown to not have enough data to rank.  Not sure why.
The countless number of positive comments I've received in various forms have been wonderful, encouraging, invaluable, and have kept me blogging when I almost gave it all up.

     Thank you, Readers, for coming back to Preppy Mountain Farmhouse each week this past year.  I am so grateful for your views, your comments, your likes and your "following" me.  Here's to another great year together.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Blue Ribbon Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

It's that time of year again when my children begin to perform on stage.  We'll have concerts, musicals, awards ceremonies, and recitals for the next five weeks.  Tonight we begin with our youngest daughter's violin recital---her first one.  Our family is to bring cookies for refreshments, so I've decided to whip up some oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies.  I know many of you aren't oatmeal cookie fans, but you can't rule them out until you've tried this recipe.  I've adapted it from the Cub Scout book.

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

Beat together 3/4 cup lard or shortening (I think the lard is the best), 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 egg, 1/4 cup water, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until creamy.  In another bowl, combine 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and about 3 cups uncooked oats (I tend to use a little less oats so they're not as dry.)  Add the dry mixture to the wet gradually and beat together.  Then stir in 1 bag of butterscotch chips and drop by spoonfuls onto  greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

These cookies took the blue ribbon at our county fair several years ago; hence, the title of this post.  I haven't met anyone who didn't like them---even those who don't particularly care for oatmeal cookies.  At least, no one has let me know that anyway.  And the raw cookie dough is much sought after at my house too.  Fortunately today, I only had one child at home while I made them so there was still plenty of dough left to fill a plate of cookies.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

New Life All Over the Mountain

With summer-like temperatures, this spring weekend brought an abundance of new life everywhere we looked, beginning with the arrival of new chicks on Friday.  It still amazes me that day-old chicks can be shipped in a little box and travel via the US Postal Service and arrive alive at our farm two days later.  

All but one got here safe and sound Friday afternoon, and they have taken up residence in our dining---I mean, multi-purpose room for the time being.  Hearing them peep all day long just breathes spring into our farmhouse.  They need to stay warm under the heat lamp for quite awhile, which is why the color looks so strange in the above photo.  It won't be long until they outgrow their current plastic bin, and we'll probably move them into a trough in the garage in a few weeks.

We tried to take a few of them outside for a photo shoot yesterday afternoon, but they were not happy out in a wide open space, and they kept turning their backs to me.  No scratching up bugs for them yet except for the occasional ladybug that lands in their bin.  When that happens, they all dive for it and chase after the lucky chick who runs with it in its beak.

This warm weather has been calling us outside daily, and we've been hiking all over the mountain and down to the pond.

Our teen son swears there are fish in the pond, but all I saw was one lone wild goose and lots of these salamanders.

Our red haired son loves, loves, loves salamanders and has kept a few as pets.  He even wrote a story about the one he named Emmit, who lived with us for a few days until he met an unfortunate end.  Emmit has become a legend in our family, and no other salamander can ever replace him.

In our swimming pool cover, hundreds of tadpoles have hatched out of their green jelly-like eggs and are keeping the cats entertained daily.  They won't complete their metamorphosis into toads by the time we open up our pool, though.  They'll end up as fertilizer for our gardens instead.

And speaking of the gardens, new carrots and spinach have sprung up from seeds planted last fall.  Hubby also planted some green onions a few weeks ago, and they have poked their way through the soil and mulch too.  I can't wait for fresh produce from our farm.

Dandelions have sprung up everywhere as well.  I really don't mind them in the yard; they're better than the thistles that try to inhabit every bit of bare space.  We've even used the dandelion leaves in salads from time to time, plus the goats and sheep absolutely love them.

Our goats are loving this warm weather and come up to me for a good neck scratching when they see me trying to take pictures.  This is our buck Jarlsburg heading towards me.  If you've ever been around a billy goat, you know scratching their heads requires a good pair of gloves.  Otherwise, you smell like them for the rest of the day.

Our does love to sunbathe, especially Palila, our oldest goat in the herd.  Lying under the blooming Bradford Pear tree each afternoon is her routine.  Three of our girls are looking very pregnant, but they still have at least a couple more weeks to go.

Squirrels' nests are everywhere in the woods and clearly visible right now while the trees are just budding.  We haven't come upon any baby squirrels or birds fallen out of their nests this spring yet.  I have done my share of trying to feed abandoned baby squirrels with a medicine dropper, and the experience has never ended on a positive note.

The local creek was stocked with trout a few weeks ago, and this weekend marked the official beginning of trout season here.  Our orange haired son was the only one interested in fishing the creek, but the trout weren't interested in anything hanging from the end of his line.

All of the children seem to have spring fever.  I noticed when substituting this week that everyone was more energetic, chatty, and excitable than usual.  Even our teenagers are goofy and wound up which is better than the surly, sedentary, sleepy beings that they often are during the winter.  Except at 10:00 at night when I just really want all of them to be sound asleep in their beds, not wanting to jump around and talk to me about the latest cool thing they saw on Pinterest.

Our youngest requested a picnic this weekend, so along with hiking, fishing, and playing on the playground Sunday afternoon, I also packed us a lunch in our picnic basket.  Nothing fancy this time: PB & J, apples, and pretzel sticks because Mom needs to go to the grocery store yet again.  That is becoming my second home.

The warm weather, new life, and longer hours of daylight keeps us outside much of the day until I look at the clock and realize we need to get younger ones ready for bed since tomorrow is another school day.  I don't know about you all, but we are counting down the days now until the last day of school.  It just can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What's For Dinner, Mom?

In our family, one of the first things I hear out of my children's mouths when I pick them up from school is, "What's for dinner?"  Sometimes I know what we're having at 3:00 in the afternoon, and sometimes I don't have a clue, I'm sorry to say.  If I know, I answer that child.  But because no one else is really paying attention to what I've just said since they didn't ask the question themselves, I will be asked "What's for dinner, Mom?" as many as six times a day.  Actually, my husband has learned not to ask me that question most of the time, so I really only hear that five different times in a day.  It's taken me sixteen years, but I finally got so tired of repeating myself over and over each day, that I went out to Michael's and bought the chalkboard above, and I hung it nice and high in our kitchen so everyone can see for themselves what is for dinner that evening.  Unless I don't know until the last minute.  In that case, the blackboard remains blank all day long, and everyone eventually surmises that Mom is either going to run out to pick up some takeout food, or it's fend-for-yourself-night because Mom is on strike.  Just kidding.  I've never actually done that as tempted as I've been.
I'm including below 3 of our favorite quick dinner meals that everyone in the family likes, and that is a major accomplishment because do you know how challenging it is to make something that seven people are all looking forward to eating?
Slow Cooker Pork Roast
Place a 4 pound pork roast in crockpot or slow cooker.  Combine 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup wine or water, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1 clove of minced garlic.  Pour over the roast and cook on low for 10 hours.  This is so easy to put together in the morning before going out for the day.  When you come home, it smells fantastic.  I like it with the wine, but my kiddos prefer water.  I usually just cook some rice and make a salad or a steamed vegetable to go along with it.
Baked Chicken Breasts
Put about 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs on a big plate and add 1 Tablespoon dried basil and 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese.  Stir together.  Then coat skinless, boneless chicken breasts in the breadcrumb mixture and place in an oiled baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  I serve with a steamed vegetable and either rice or noodles.  Most of my boys proceed to smother it in barbecue sauce, but I think it's flavorful and juicy without any sauce.
Chicken in a Pot
Put baby carrots, 2 sliced onions, and 2 sliced celery stalks with the leaves in bottom of crockpot.  Add a 3 pound whole chicken.  Top with 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 cup water or chicken broth or white wine (my kids like the chicken broth best.)  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon dried basil on top.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 5 hours.  *If you cook on high, use 1 cup of liquid instead of 1/2.  All that's left to make at the end of the day is something from the bread group or some baked potatoes.
Now it's time for me to quickly figure out what everyone in my house is eating tonight.  I've been gone all day and only came home long enough to hang some laundry and talk to all of you.  I have to run back out to pick up a daughter from her second track meet of the season.  I'm hoping there are enough leftovers in the refrigerator to feed everyone because at this point, my chalkboard is bare and so is my mind of any impromptu dishes I can throw together in about 10 minutes.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Multi-Purpose Room (aka. the Dining Room of a Large Family)

OK.  So today I'm going to be honest and real with you dear readers about my endless quest to create just one grownup room in this old farmhouse.  If you're looking for cool decorating tips, this probably isn't for you.  If you like DIY projects, I am including one super simple project that I sat on the floor and did yesterday in about half an hour while watching old episodes of Once Upon a Time with my kids as the snow fell outside (in April!).  If you want to hear the ramblings and frustrations of a mom of eight concerning her tremendous desire to have a house that looks like it was featured in Country Living, but can't seem to succeed without evicting all other family members, this post IS for you!  Be prepared to see some clutter, plenty of childrens' belongings, along with dust and dead ladybugs on the floor.  You've been warned.

Three years ago, I decided we would convert the dining room from a playroom back into a real dining room.  I was done having babies, all animals were moved outside, our youngest was turning four, and I was going through a mid-life mommy crisis.  I thought if I didn't have one room that looked like adults actually resided here, I would go crazy.  I told my husband I would get rid of all the kid clutter, help him paint, and take care of all the decorating.  All he had to do was show up for the painting and move the piano for me.  He said he could have the room painted in a weekend.  I made big plans to entertain by the end of that April.

As with most of our projects around here, the painting took a little longer than anticipated.  Like 4-6 weeks longer.  In all fairness to my husband, this is in large part because it took not one, not two, not three, but four coats of paint to cover up the huge loopy "artwork" that our youngest created on one of the walls when she was a toddler.  Magic Eraser does not erase black permanent markers, by the way.  And if you look closely, you can still see that masterpiece under the four coats of paint.  This new sofa helps hide some of it.

I hesitate to admit that I did very little of the actual painting.  Instead, I filled garbage bags with stuff to take to Goodwill, and I had to sneak a few things out while the kids were asleep to avoid a total meltdown.  Then I bought insulated curtains from Bed, Bath, & Beyond, along with chair cushions and new pillows for the futon that we had at the time.  I got the bright idea to bring our old dining room table and chairs in from the loft above the outdoor shed.  At first I thought I could refinish them myself, but I need some serious instruction before I tackle that project, so I bought a new tablecloth to throw over it instead.  My mom surprised me with curtain tiebacks that she made herself.  After purchasing a new futon mattress and cover since the old one had been peed on numerous times by either the beagle as a puppy or a toddler or two, I felt like we had a brand new room.  I went shopping in our attic for some wall hangings not currently being used, and we finally had a grownup room.

Fast forward three years, and here we are with an invasion of kids' stuff again.  When the 20 year old futon finally bit the dust for good, we had to go out and shop for a new sofa last week.  Funny how a new piece of furniture makes you see a room in a whole new light.  What happened to my neat, uncluttered, adult room?  I realized that I still don't have a dining room.  No one actually sits in there and dines; but all kinds of other activity occurs in there.  The teenagers sprawl on the couch and browse Pinterest or Instagram on their phones or sneak in some "game time" when they think no one is looking.

The bookshelves have become filled once again with children's games, artwork, and our six year old's attempts to decorate for every holiday and season.  (You have to admire her zeal for decorating though.)

Other shelves hold children's books, craft supplies, and my cookbooks.  Stashed beside and around the bookcase are musical instruments: a mandolin, trumpet, clarinet, and violin.

Another shelf still holds all kinds of homeschooling stuff because we still have one homeschooler in this house.  Did I ever mention this old farmhouse has only two closets?  That's right.  One linen closet that's in the bathroom, and one closet that's in the boys' bedroom.  That's it.  What was I thinking ten years ago when I fell in love with this house at first sight to purchase a house with only one main bathroom and two closets?  The private location, the mountain view, the wide open space, and the colonial decor of this farmhouse reeled me in.  But I clearly wasn't thinking about where we would put all of our stuff!

The boys practice playing their instruments in the "dining room."  Um, in case you're wondering what's on our youngest son's head, that's a paper brain with all parts labeled that he made in science class.  And yes, he has actually been known to wear that out in public.

Our youngest daughter practices her violin in this room too.  

And at some point every day, someone decides to play the piano.  Sometimes two or three children try to play simultaneously, which never ends well.  Does anyone else have a house full of people who play different instruments...all at the same time...and all playing a different song?  

This room is also housing a number of house plants, and it's been known to hold trays of seedlings owned by my husband who is itching to start planting in the garden but has to wait until the threat of frost is over.

Speaking of my husband, even though there is this great designated office space at the top of the stairs where there is a desk, printer, file cabinet, and a terrific view from the window above, he still insists on having his morning coffee and browsing the Internet in my "dining room."

Finally, for whatever reason, this is the favorite room of our behemoth black cat, Star.  Yes, this is the one who threw out my back during Winter Storm Jonas when I tried to grab him before he went to the bathroom on a stack of backpacks.  If you haven't read about that, it's in my blog archives under the month of January.  And no, he really isn't supposed to be in here.  I am a glutton for punishment.

As my frustration mounted this week at the state of this room that really isn't a dining room, and never really was, I finally made my peace with it.  I don't know how other big families manage to have kid-free zones.  Maybe they don't.  I just know that in our house while there are still more children than adults living here, their things, their interests, their personalities can be found in every room, including this one.  I stopped fighting it, and decided to just accept that this is the multi-purpose room.  And then I decided to create something to make myself feel better.  So I went to Michael's and picked up plain wood boards glued together with twine attached at the top.  And my little girl helped me decide which alphabet letters would look and fit best on the wood since there are a gazillion different sizes, colors, and styles of letters to choose from right now.  And then I pulled out my hot glue gun and went to work.

Then I hung my finished project on the same wall that held the "artwork" that we painted over three years ago.  Above the new couch.  And above the portraits of our 8 blessings taken when they were all toddlers.  And I reminded myself that some day when this house is empty and quiet, and I'm sitting in the actual dining room having a grownup meal with my husband, we'll probably be reminiscing teary-eyed about the days when this room was filled with four musical instruments being played at once while teenagers texted on the couch, the black cat was sleeping on the chair, and my husband and I were popping Tylenol for our migraine headaches in the adjoining kitchen.  Or maybe we'll just sit there and eat in silence and relish the quiet in the room that is no longer used for multiple purposes but is actually used for dining.  I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Glimpses of Early Spring at Our Mountain Farm

It's a busy week here, and my days are filled with substitute teaching, taking children to appointments and activities, running to the grocery store, and tackling the endless loads of laundry.  I'm pretty sure none of you want to see or hear about all of that.  So I decided to post some pictures taken over the past few days of sights on and around our farmhouse.  Even though it was 22 degrees here this morning, everywhere you look, the beginning of spring is evident.

We drove past an Amish farm the other evening and witnessed this newborn foal getting up and walking on its wobbly legs for the first time.  It felt like we were witnessing a miracle.

I only wish I could have gotten closer.  These were taken from our vehicle with my phone.

No leaves on our birch tree yet, but its light colored bark really stood out against the blue sky and kelly green grass.  The kids managed to nail in some platforms on some of the tree limbs.  Our youngest son can climb to nearly the top, which is about even with the attic floor of our farmhouse.  He's bound and determined to turn my hair gray!

The sky on Saturday looked like a painting.  Unfortunately, this turned into wet, windy, cold weather the next day.  We had wind gusts up to 70 mph that night and part of Sunday.  Nothing was damaged here, thank goodness.

Little grape hyacinths have popped up near the creek.  We're hoping that Morel mushrooms will be following close behind.  The woods are full of them up here in May, if you know where to look.  They sell for an astronomical price on the Internet and at our local Wegman's.

The grass and mosses are really turning bright green everywhere, including this brook that flows down the mountain on the other side of our lane.

OK, so these may have nothing to do with Mother Nature and spring, but I found these paisley sneakers at Target this weekend, and I couldn't resist sharing.  I just want to wear them with everything.  If I could find them in a pair of ballet flats, I don't think I'd wear anything else for the next two months.

The children were outside most of the day Saturday.  My husband has our younger boys all pumped up about rocket mass heaters.  They now want to build these miniature versions out of bricks all over our back yard.  Our fire-loving son spent hours tending to his until it got hot enough to boil water.  Not sure why that was the goal, since the water didn't get used for anything.

Our sheep and goats are so happy to be out on green pasture again.  They're still eating hay too, so they are getting quite round.  It's almost time for sheep shearing and kidding.  We expect baby goats by next month at this time.  Can't wait!

I'm going to admit that these little mounds puzzled me when the younger children and I were at the park last week.  They looked like small ant hills, but there were small yellow/black bees or hornets hovering over them.  We get plenty of yellow jackets here, but I'd never seen them with nests in the ground before.  These flying insects weren't aggressive, and they would sometimes dip down into the hole and fly back up again.  I did some googling, and I can't determine if they are a type of yellow jacket or a ground bee or something else I'm not even aware of.  If any of you knowledgeable readers out there can enlighten me, I would really appreciate it.

I hope your first week of April is warmer than ours.  I am grateful, though, that we didn't get any of the forecasted snow here.