cover pic

cover pic
Showing posts with label Country living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Country living. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pool Tales: The Final Chapter

 When we bought this house nearly eleven years ago, this was the view from our patio off the back of our old farmhouse.  We never cared much about having our own swimming pool, but since it was already here, that was pretty awesome.  Except for the fact that I had two preschoolers, a toddler, and an infant, and as you can see, there was no fence around the pool.  But it was an incredible view, and at night, the moonlight reflected off the water, and the stars were so bright overhead, and I thought my husband and I would spend every summer night on rafts in this pool.  We'd float around in the quiet watching fireflies and sipping some wine or a Gin & Tonic after the little ones had gone to bed with the baby monitor plugged in next to us.  I'm not sure what I imagined our teenage son doing at the time...listening to music, watching a movie, reading a book?  It doesn't really matter because we only ever ventured into that pool by ourselves one time at night anyway.


 Because here's what no one ever told me about having a swimming pool in the country on the side of the mountain: all kinds of creatures come to the pool...especially at night.  We had already seen the multitudes of long, thick black snakes slither up from under the concrete each May when the weather got warm and we were just opening up the pool.  Sometimes early in the season, we'd be floating in the water on a sunny afternoon and two or three snakes would come slithering along the concrete and off into the grass.  We discovered early on that mice, birds, moles, and even an occasional rabbit came to the pool at night and then drowned in the water early in the morning.  We've had Amish neighbors' geese and ducks show up there, and one time, even a cow!  Of course, lots and lots of insects, centipedes, and spiders are also drawn to the water, and that means when it gets dark, the bats come too.


The first night that my husband and I actually got the kids to bed without us falling asleep in the process, we poured ourselves some vino and sneaked out to the pool.  Never mind that the boys' room looked out over the pool; we'd just quietly step in for a quick dip, and they'd never know we were out there.  We were in the water sipping wine looking at those magnificent stars and feeling like the luckiest couple on earth.  This was paradise; who needs a vacation?  That was until I felt something swoosh down and brush against my hair.  Then it happened again and again.  My husband felt it too.  We looked up and there were bats swooping down to catch the bugs flying around and landing on the water.  And they didn't stop.  And I was done.  No matter how quiet, peaceful, or romantic of a night this was, there was no room for bats in my vision.  And we never did that again.  I figured that one day in the future, when our kids would be older and in school or out of the house, we'd go out there alone again while it was still daylight when the bats were wherever they go at night around here.  I don't want to think too hard about that.


But alas, that is not meant to be because this past winter our pool liner ripped.  We noticed the water level going down after the pool was covered.  We knew that come spring, we would have to finally fork out the money to have it replaced.  We weren't thrilled about it, but we were prepared.  But things just got worse.  With each violent storm we got this winter and early spring, the situation got worse and worse.  Pieces of the liner tore and blew all over the yard and lane.  Where the pool cover had pulled away, it looked to me like concrete was starting to crumble, and was that actual dirt falling into the pool?  When I made the call to the swimming pool business and told them we might need a little bit more than just a new liner, he asked me to send him pictures.  I knew it must be bad.

 After receiving several quotes of upwards of $15,000, I told my husband we just weren't going to do it.  After the first month that we have it open, our kids lose interest in swimming in it.  Last year after lunch each day, I had to force them to spend an hour in the pool because their dad and I had just spent hundreds of dollars on more pool chemicals and hours of our time cleaning it.  I literally had to set a timer to ensure they'd be out there a full hour.  I realize how ridiculous this sounds now and I wonder why we went on as long as we did.  So this Memorial Day weekend, instead of pulling off the pool cover, vacuuming up hundreds of tadpoles, and pouring in pounds and pounds of chlorine and stabilizer to get our pool ready for the summer, we'll be waiting for equipment to show up to begin breaking up the concrete and filling in our pool.  It feels rather sad because it's yet another reminder that an era of our life here is coming to an end.  Our youngest five children have grown up here, and their memories of summer are spattered with learning to swim, diving for toys, swimming until their teeth chatter from the 66 degree water temperature in early June, and eating popsicles around the pool.  Our summers will be different.


But there is a silver lining to this final chapter of my tale: I have big plans for that nice flat area on this side of the mountain.  Once it's all filled in, and it's covered in thick, green grass, I have my eye on some canopies, outdoor tables and Adirondack chairs, some wonderful fire pits that can also be used for tables, a tiki bar, and fairy lights.  I can see some fantastic farm-to-table dinners out there with lots of friends and family gathered together.  The moonlight won't be reflecting off the pool anymore, but the stars will be just as bright, and it will be just as peaceful as it has always been.

And I'm trusting that the bats won't find our back yard as enticing as it was before.
 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Easter Holiday Highlights


Nearly a week after the fact, and I've finally uploaded the Easter photos, collected the Easter baskets, and finished off the last of the Easter dinner.  Except for the colored eggs; there are still lots of those.  And the decorations are still up.  And I still have half a bag of Easter candy stashed away to use as bribes or rewards as needed.  Anyway, this is what Easter looked like at our preppy mountain farmhouse this year.  We didn't invite the hen above into our family picture with us sitting in our clean Church clothes; she photobombed it, and our son caught her.


We took dinner to our grown son's house the afternoon before Easter.  Our boys actually got to hold their nephew for once; usually they can't get him out of their sister's arms.


And his uncles adore him.  It is so much easier to keep a baby entertained when he has so many aunties and uncles around to make a fuss over him.

 

Our youngest daughter and I made dozens of deviled eggs over the weekend.  Our hens are laying around twelve eggs every day, and we have eggs coming out the wazoo.  I've been scrambling them and making custard and boiling them and even freezing them.  But we still have six full cartons in the refrigerator with another dozen or so that were dyed last Saturday.


These were just a select few that the children and their dad colored last weekend.  All of our hens lay brown eggs of various shades, and everyone wanted to make metallic ones, so we weren't sure how they would turn out.  Some looked golden, and others not shown here were a rather putrid brownish-greenish color.


I actually bought myself a new Easter dress this year from TJ Maxx.  Two of my adolescent photographers were trying to get me to pose in more interesting ways, but this was the only one I'd feel comfortable sharing.  No Kardashian wannabes here.


But we did have some kind of Spiderman-Samurai character running around our property searching for eggs.  I'm not sure what look she was going for; she's her own unique blend of some kind of wonderful.


And her ten year-old brother is his own blend of awesomeness too.


This guy showed up for the egg hunt as well, but all he was really interested in was eating the fresh green buds on the bush above him.


All of my kiddos still participate in our annual egg hunt, and their dad doesn't make it easy for them.


Every year as they get older and older, at least one of them says that maybe next year they'll just help hide the eggs, and not be a part of the hunt anymore.  But the next year comes, and whether they like to admit it or not, they still get excited about finding their color-coded stuffed eggs.


And I'm holding on to that for as long as I can.

I hope your weekend is your own blend of wonderful awesomeness.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Is This Really February?


I know Punxsutawney Phil forecasted six more weeks of winter, but surely he was mistaken.  For most of this week, we've got temps near 70 degrees here in the Alleghenies.  One of our school groups planned an outing many weeks ago for families to go tubing at a nearby ski resort.  Our children had been looking forward to it for days, but when we arrived, it was a balmy 66 degrees on the slopes.  I didn't know whether to bring them t-shirts to change into or the traditional snowsuits and sledding gear.  We settled on something in between, but I did see a few teens skiing and snowboarding in shorts and tank tops.


I didn't participate in the tubing, but stood on the sidelines enjoying the unseasonable warmth and tried to get pictures with my phone because I forgot my new camera.


My youngest is afraid to go on water slides, so I wasn't sure she would participate, but she was the first member of our family to grab a tube and get in line.


And she loved it.  It was safer than sledding at our house since you didn't have to worry about hitting a fence, a tree, or going over a ravine at the bottom.


Initially they all went down one by one, but they soon learned it was more fun to link together and make a train.


The only problem was that our youngest son was usually at the front of their train, and when they came to a stop, he got flung out of the tube and rolled several times in the mud.


And that mud at the bottom just got worse as the evening wore on.  By the time we decided to call it a night and go into the lodge to eat dinner, everyone's backsides were covered in it.  Our smallest son was literally coated in mud from his neck to his toes.  I had them strip out of their outerwear in the parking lot and did my best to wrap up those clothes in a manner that wouldn't totally wreck the back of our SUV, but it was just one big mess.  I'm doing heavy duty laundry today and cleaning the inside of our vehicle, unfortunately.  We seriously looked like country bumpkin hillbillies at the resort next to the clean, mud-free skiers and snowboarders who enjoyed completely snow-covered slopes all the way to the bottom. But the kiddos had fun and would do it again in a heartbeat.


Meanwhile, back at the farmhouse, our pets and livestock have also been loving this spring-like weather.


Our lambs and goat kids are running and hopping all over the place.  Their favorite activity is to jump on the back of our large lone ram and ride him around the pasture.  They've even worn bare a patch of wool on his back where they like to sit.  He doesn't seem to mind as he goes about the business of eating any green grass he can find.  I have got to get out in the pasture with a chair and my camera when I have some free time to videotape it.

I hope all of you are getting some of this warm weather too.  Have a great weekend, Everyone! 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

20 Things I Love

Last month I read a blog post by Ashley at The Big White Farmhouse blog where she made a list of 20 simple things she loves about her life.  I thought that was a wonderful way to start the new year, and it inspired me to do the same.  I decided to wait to post mine near Valentine's Day since that seemed fitting, so here is the list I came up with:

1. That first cup of steaming flavored coffee in my favorite mug when I come downstairs at 6 AM.
2. Holding and petting our 2 Maine cooncats.

3. Spending hours browsing in a library or bookstore.
4. Attending concerts and shows with my husband.


5. Sitting in my new kitchen as the sun streams through the windows.
6. The smell of homemade bread baking in the oven.


7. Seeing several "Comments Awaiting Moderation" in my blog inbox after publishing a post.
8. Sitting down to blog when the house is quiet and I have no interruptions.

9. Playing board games as a family on long winter nights.
10. The feel of a baby in my arms.


11. The smell of crisp sheets after they've hung on the clothesline on a sunny day.
12. Walking through the woods with my camera.


13. Filling a pew at church when grandparents and adult children come to visit.
14. Trying out a new dinner recipe while sipping a glass of wine.

15. Feeling the breeze off the mountain blow through our kitchen screen doors on a summer evening.
16. The sound of water flowing in the brook beside our house.


17. My afternoon cup of homemade mocha with nutmeg and cinnamon on my way to the school.
18. Watching goat kids and lambs frolic in the pastures.


19. Licking raw cookie dough off the beaters.
20. One big snowfall each winter with all of us at home for a snow day.

This list just scratches the surface.  Those of you who read this blog know that each season and holiday brings another unique collection of photographs of the things I love most about life.  Focusing on those things and the positive in every person and situation I encounter is one of my goals for this year.  

So what about you?  What would be on your list of 20 things you love?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Ice Storm


When I posted on Tuesday, schools were dismissing early due to inclement weather.  While the forecast said a coating to an inch of snow, this is what it looked like here by the time my husband and children arrived home in the early afternoon.  I just happened to create a new chalkboard design that day, and once everyone was home safely, I felt I could display this and mean it.


When the children went to bed that night, they were hopeful they'd be on a 2 hour delay the next morning.  I told them not to hold their breaths because it was supposed to warm up and start raining by midnight.  Instead, we got the call at 5:30 AM Wednesday that schools were, indeed, on a two-hour delay.


Shortly after that, schools were canceled for the day due to the 1/4 inch of ice that coated everything overnight when the temperatures didn't rise as predicted.


I put my Yak Trax over my hiking boots, picked up my new camera, and headed to the woods.


If I stayed off our lane---which was a thick sheet of solid ice that my spikes couldn't penetrate---I could safely hike and photograph this winter wonderland.


Things were just starting to melt as the clouds began clearing, but I managed to get some photos of ice stubbornly clinging to everything around me.


A strange fog sort of hovered near the tree tops, and the sun never shone fully that day.


However, it did warm up A LOT as temperatures reached the low sixties yesterday, and everything completely melted.


But I am so glad that I braved the ice and took some time out of our busy, noisy, bustling house on that snow day to slow down and be in the moment and notice the small, simple, beautiful gifts that surround us here on the mountain.  Above all else that I hope to accomplish this year, choosing to be still and aware and present tops my list.  


And now, to finish this week on a totally different note, here is a peek at our kitchen at the end of day three of the renovation.  We all wait until the evening when the carpenters leave for the day, and then we practically run to those doors and have a look inside as we watch it transpire.  I've been visiting a local antique mall looking for farm treasures, and my Pinterest boards are expanding as I peruse the farm kitchen pins.  I think it's safe to say a trip to Home Goods and Pier 1 is in the plans for this weekend.

May all of you have both moments of excitement and stillness this weekend. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Lights Out: Surviving With No Power


With much of the eastern United States covered in snow and sleet this weekend, I thought I'd reference a post I wrote a year ago on preparing for power outages.  The storm missed us this time, but our electricity has been out twice in the past two months, both times for three-five hours.  When it happened the week before Thanksgiving, we were babysitting our grandson, but all was well as we snuggled under a fleece blanket together on my rocking chair as he took a nap.  Our daughter played music from her charged cellphone as we played card games by the oil lamps and candles, and the house quickly warmed up after starting a fire in the wood/coal stove in our kitchen.  We lose power so frequently up here on the mountain, that it has become second nature for us to go around the house lighting candles and lamps, starting a fire, and pulling out the propane burner for making coffee in our camping coffee pot or boiling stored water.  

Here  is the link to my previous post on learning from our Amish neighbors how to live without electricity.  My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by Winter Storm Helena.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Winter Walk on a Sunny Day


Our New Year's Day was relatively warm and sunny here in the Alleghenies.  After Mass and lunch, I decided to go for a little walk through the woods and experiment with my new camera.  Thanks goes to our teenage daughter for the above shot; I made her come with me.



The pond was still partially frozen and looked mesmerizing with a layer of ice floating on top.



I took so many pictures that it was hard to decide which ones to include and which ones to delete.

 

We are so fortunate to have both a creek and a pond just below our property.




I don't know why, but I loved the way the leaves looked as if they were fossilizing in the melting ice on the creek.



On the way back up to our farmhouse, we stopped to see our goats, but they ignored me to eat the grass that had been covered in snow and ice for a week or so.



As I walked, and sat, and peered through my camera lens at this microcosm of my world, I knew what my New Year's Resolution would be.

And it's not to write more lengthy to-do lists.  It's not to stuff my mind with more news updates and images from social media.  It's not to have a greater number of projects to fill my days.  And it's not to come up with more events to fill our calendar.

It's to spend more time being still, reflective, and noticing the beauty in the simple things around me.  To be completely present in each moment.  To not be thinking of my checklist while I'm playing with my children or walking down to the mailbox or petting our goats.  To just be at peace where I am and still enough to feel the presence of God.

This will be a huge challenge for my busy mind and rather noisy house, but that is going to be my daily focus for 2017.