Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Spring Cleaning and Painting and Framing and Finishing

We moved here in April of 2015 and lived in a dinky 1978 Shasta Camper for six months while we built our Grain Bin House. Move in day was mid October that year .

I'd like to say we moved in because the Grain Bin was complete but the truth was, we had no heat or bathroom in the camper and we were tired of showering outside. Brrrr. The rooms in the Grain Bin were dry walled, the stairs were finished, and the bathroom was functioning but that was about it. That winter we painted walls and built our kitchen.

Then we got busy with the next spring's garden and since I was still in school full time, all the bits and bobs inside were left undone. Like framing two windows, putting floor trim up, patching holes left by the dry wallers (and us), hanging the rest of the lights and putting a door on our bedroom, to name just a few.

But last week we got crackin' and dished out a few bucks at our local Menards in order to finish what we started. Problem is-space. It's too cold to paint outside or work in Keith's unheated workshop in the old creepy house, so we had to spread out in our living area downstairs. The rocket mass stove and my laundry rack both were put to use as substitute sawhorses.

Quite the mess we made with all the window frames that had to be painted and then allowed to dry. Plus moving items out of the pantry in order to close in the stair case and paint it.

But, we are making progress on our to do list whether it looks like it or not. In Keith's regular fashion, he used all recycled wood for the window frames. Some came from a sister's kitchen remodel while other pieces came from the creepy house. A door frame there (easily 100 years old) became a new window frame here. Paint does work miracles.

We still have drapes to hang in the upstairs among other things but we expect to have it all done before the weather warms up.

As soon as THAT happens we're back working on the barn!

Thursday, March 8, 2018


 It's a simple title for a simple post.

This is Wing. A diminutive rooster born and raised on The Poor Farm. For whatever reason he came directly out of his shell with a broken right ring. See how it hangs low, in the above photo. His siblings denied rough housing and his mother denied taking any drugs or abusing alcohol during his incubation.

The father has never been clearly identified.

We certainly considered a euthanasia approach to this little guy but his spirit was astonishing. he kept up with his family, stayed close to his mother and thrived. As he aged though we noticed his tendency to end up on his back; a balance issue we decided.

Once a larger animal, like one of our massive dogs, brushed against him, he'd get flipped over and be unable to right himself. Again, we considered sending him to the big free-range pasture in the sky. Instead we'd gently use the tip of our boot and "right" him. He'd take off to find his buddies. Perhaps embarrassed that he needed help.

Over time he has become a loner, choosing to hang closer to our two dogs than to his own kind. Chickens are not always so considerate of the handicapped. At times another rooster will pick on him and he ends up on his back again. Oddly the bullying rooster then backs off, not wanting to be the jerk who picks on another rooster when he's down I suppose.

Now, into Wing's third year, it's become routine to have to "right" him once or twice a day. I worry that if he wanders too far and gets himself flipped over where we don't see him,  he'll simply succumb over a few days, but he seems to know to stick close.

He knows the dogs have the best food and prefers to eat with them, so why wander?

Friday, March 2, 2018

My Writers Studio Comes Back to Life

Image result for Virginai Woolf
A woman must have money and a room of her own
if she is to write fiction
                                                                  - V. Woolf

I've been waiting all winter to get back into my studio and finally with a break in the weather, temps near 60 degrees F on a couple days, I was able to make that happen.

I don't often write about my other life-my writerly life-on this blog, electing to stay focused on farmy things here, but the two worlds do intersect. So, indulge me. 

My writers studio used to be our retail farm store building on our old farm. We had it moved up here in the fall of 2016. I gave the inside walls a new coat of paint and covered the floor with a variety of old carpets we had and a couple new thrift store rugs.

                                                             As a retail store on old farm                                 

                                                     Writers Studio on New Farm

I was working on a Virginia Woolf of the 1940's theme. I so admire her work. I also decorated it similarly to my grandmother's home in Chicago. She, Josephine Mercedes O'Shaughnessy, read her own poetry to me when I was just six. Her mother, my great grandmother, was also a poet. 

The very vintage green couch and matching chair, Sears and Roebuck circa 1930's, was found on Craig's list. The gray wingback chair was a thrift store score last year for just $3. The large wood cabinet we've had for years, it used to store my china, and is probably early 20th century. Now, I shall fill it with books! The dresser came from an aunt of mine and the crackle glass lamps were bought at an antique store near here for just $5 each. I'm still shopping for shades to cover them. On top of the dresser is an antique watch makers tool cabinet gifted to me several Christmas's ago by eldest son. 

I used to display soap in it, so you could say the very clean.

If anyone has seen lamps like this before, or know anything about the time period they came from, be sure to leave a comment.

My desk used to be my parents dining room buffet which they bought in the early 1960's along with a matching table and chairs. I have no clue to the whereabouts of the table and chairs-probably hocked to buy more macaroni and cheese for their six kids- but after my folks died the buffet came to live with me. For over twenty years it stood in our large farmhouse dining room loaded with family photos which were periodically cleared off to hold the plates, crockpots, bowls etc. for the family holiday meals we hosted. 

You can see by the top it's been a bit abused. Probably at least one or two cigarette burns from my folks, heat marks from the crock pots, oil marks from the food, ink and crayon marks from the offspring and GK's.  Rather it's one archeological dig, this buffet. 

To further add insult to domestic injury, Keith severed its legs to a desk height and voila! I have a place to scribble deep -as well as many shallow-thoughts. I am so happy to have found a place and new use for this piece of furniture. 

The windows are simply draped with vintage Irish lace I found in a charity shop in Dingle, Ireland in 2006. They sold their wares by the inch there and so bought a couple good wool blankets as well. One rests on the gray wingback chair (below) while the other covers a huge gash in the pleather seat of my desk chair, seen above.

Up above the main area of the studio are two lofts, roomy enough if you're lying down. If one bolts upright too fast you're headed for a concussion, compliments of the low loft ceilings.  A donated box spring and mattress from my sister Teresa fills one loft space while the other contains an antique metal box spring with a well-loved futon mattress. The older GK's slept up in the lofts last fall before it got nippy in there. The metal sign on the wall is my father's old truck lettering business sign from the 1970's.

My studio is still without heat or electric, but I can nest in there in the daytime with a couple of blankets around me. Soon I'll be able to comfortably write in there a few hours each day. With luck our budget will allow for us to run electricity to the building this summer. Heat, so I can work there in the winter as well, is on the back burner.

If you are a writer also, published or unpublished, seeking grandiose fame or just writing for the pure pleasure of it. I'd love to have you as a blog reader/commenter over at my other blog home,
O'Shaughnessy Writes

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tearing Down the Haunted House

It's haunted. I know it. You can't be 162 years old and not have a few skeletons in your closets. Which is why I don't go in there after dark, or when its' cloudy outside, or the wind is blowing from the north.

If it blows from the south west though I have no problems. Go figure.

I'm talking about the original frame house on our property which we'll be tearing down this spring. The old girl was in bad shape when we bought this property four years ago, which is why the decision to build a new home out of a recycled grain bin, was a no brainer.

Here's the old girl herself, built in 1856 and home to several families over the decades.

She's covered with cheap vinyl on the outside and had two porches added on in her later years. The roofs over the porches was of poor quality so now both of them are leaking and the floors in them are giving way. Getting in and out of this place gets a bit dicey at times. 

 But, she has served her purpose through her storage capabilities. Keith has used the house's kitchen as his workshop . We didn't trust the wiring in there, so new wiring was run from our electrical post/box back in 2015. That way Keith could use the power tools he needed for building the Grain Bin House.

We also used the old kitchen to store our freezers where we keep all the meat we raise here for our own good eating. After the barn is built these will move into our new barn in a separate storage room. 

 The main portions of the house, the kitchen, living room and downstairs bedroom plus three bedrooms upstairs have remained dry. Thank good ness because we used those rooms to store furniture we still need to sell and/or give away, plus building materials for the rest of the farm, and canning supplies. These items too, will have a new home in the barn when it's done.

The upstairs of the house is cramped and dark. A recently added hall closet-"recently" being in the last 30 years or so-revealed many usable 2x4's Keith will recycle into the barn build.

Because every haunted house needs an EXIT sign don't you think?

Hardware from the mid 19th century.

 Wallpaper in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Good to know we have patriotic spirits about us.

This is what happens when you move from a 3000 SF farm house into an itty bitty Looney Bin

We will pile up debris outside the house as we go this summer, and then rent a large dumpster to haul it all away. I am hopeful we will find some old newspapers, other treasures when we start pulling apart the walls.

The area where this house now stands will be an open park like zone between our grain bin home and the barn, perfect for flower gardens, outdoor seating etc...It will be frustrating to make more messes here on The Poor Farm, but in the end, we'll have a pretty little homestead.

I figure if I keep saying that over and over it might come true. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Big Finale...The Poor Farm Budget 2018

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to move past this budget theme and back into the day to day workings of our homestead. First though,  a summary.

2017 was our first year completely separate from our old Chatsworth farm which was sold for the second time (to good and decent folk) in December 2016. Gone was the income from a variety of sources such as livestock and equipment sales, as well as the extra expenses like two sets of mortgages, utilities and farm upkeep.

We only had to worry about The Poor Farm in 2017. We also had just one regular income-Keith's off farm job- and my small nursing pension plus some cash from pork and beef sales and some Facebook sales of other farm paraphernalia we discovered we did not need, like extra livestock waterers. All in all, we were able to pay our bills and not generate extra credit card debt. We were not however, able to add significantly to our savings.

Which brings me to our new (old) barn. I'll cover those details in a future post, probably towards summer as the barn is completed-we hope. The project definitely ate up what we had set aside from the sale of the Chatsworth farm for it's build -$5000-as well as a good hunk of our minimal savings. But as Gemma Teller Morrow said in the truly awful final scene of season five of SOA, "It had to be done".

Finishing the barn will occur as money makes itself known. Some supplies will come from the original 1856 house (see above photo) as we begin tearing it down, by hand, this spring. For example, we plan to build the barn's loft from the recycled house floor boards. 2018 will be a productive year I am sure.

Budget wise, we expect no significant increases in income but plan to continue decluttering and selling the last of the leftover bits and bobs from the old farm. I also remain hopeful that we can still whittle down some expense areas such as gasoline use, grocery store expenses, (we have big garden plans, our biggest ever) and the ever troubling "miscellaneous" column which includes Christmas gift giving. We must MAKE more gifts this year!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Insurance...The Poor Farm Budget 2018

See the source image

Moving on with our annual financial budget, I'll share with you how we manage insurance costs. In this category we include auto, home and life insurance. In 2017 we also included health insurance because one of us had it, but in 2018 it will be absent because neither of us is covered. But before I hit that hot topic, I'll discuss the more mundane insurances.

Auto insurance. It is required by our state law but we carry only the minimum on our vehicles, liability. It costs us $32.67/month for both vehicles: a 2002 Ford F-150 and a 2000 Dodge neon.  So if one of our cats lights up in my car and the whole thing goes up in flames...we're out of luck. And that cat has lost another life I imagine. 

Home Insurance. Also fairly simple. We wouldn't even have it if it wasn't required by our mortgage lender, but it is, so we do. Cost is $43.08 per month. This was the best price we could find and the company we use has insured our home for twice the present appraisal value because that amount was their minimum. It also covers personal belongings and the outbuildings.

Life insurance.  We each have a term policy payable upon death. We've had the same policies for years and we are rewarded for such loyalty with a steady increase in premiums as we age. I would've preferred a free toaster. Oh insurance, how thou vexes me. We have a combined coverage of $400,000 and it costs us $739 every 6 months or $1480/yr.

We no longer have minor children at home, the most minor one being twenty seven , but we want the surviving spouse to have a nice cushion to live out their days and the ability to stay on this property until their own death. And although we personally do not believe it is a parents duty to leave an inheritance to their children, it would be nice if we could leave enough for them to have a nice weekend away. Certainly, if we still have a mortgage we want our offspring to be able to pay it off.

So, how did our projections compare to actual costs? For 2017 we budgeted $155/month for auto, home and life insurance. Actual spent was $202/month. Not too far off. The additional $47 month was due to the increase in our life insurance premiums we forgot to budget for. For 2018 we've budgeted $220/month. Looking at our projected life insurance costs, we're not expecting a big jump until I turn 60 in 2019.

Now, health insurance. Last year from Jan-Nov. 2017 Keith was covered by his employer at no cost to him. I also could've gotten coverage through his employer but the cost was way out of our budget as Keith's income would've been reduced by 30%. So we said, No Thanks. In Nov. 2017 his employer announced that employees would have to pay a portion of their health insurance. Again, this would've dropped Keith's take home pay by about 20% and we said No Thanks again.

Thus, neither of us has health insurance. because Keith's employer technically offers it to both of us, neither of us qualify for any of Obama's Health Care Plans. We fall between all the cracks . We have handled this by working harder every year to get healthier. We do not take any prescription drugs, handling any aches or pains with holistic or herbal treatments. We do not regularly see physicians. We don't even see them irregularly. We are eating better than we have in decades by avoiding many processed foods and growing as much of our own food as possible. We remain active.

But we are both very aware that a semi-truck could run through us at the corner tomorrow morning, that our hearts might decide a serious arrhythmia would be entertaining, that a bulging aneurysm is lurking in our brains, that cancer could be looming within a pancreas waiting to jump out and yell BOO!

C'est la vie.

Like our dear blog friends Leigh and Dan at Five Acres & a Dream, have recently experienced, accidents can happen anytime, especially for those who do so much hands on work required on homesteads. Like Dan, Keith badly cut his finger using a saw two summers ago. Fortunately his injury was not as serious as Dan's and the total bill was less than $1000. We paid it over time to OSF Saint James Hospital whose mission is to recognize the  Personal worth and dignity of every person we serve regardless of race, color, religion and ability to pay. They were more than willing to set up a payment plan with us. We are blessed to have such a facility in our community. 

It is with these events that you learn to rely on family and friends, and you pay off the medical bills as you can, when you can. Health insurance never guarantees your safety, and none of us gets out of this life thing alive anyway.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Food...The Poor Farm Budget 2018

Image result for funny picture of julia child

"Never eat more than you can lift."     -Miss Piggy

"I always cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food."     -W.C. Fields

"Red meat and gin."     - Julia Child  (When asked what attributed to her longevity)

Food. It rocks my world. I spend a huge hunk of my time in our looney bin kitchen every day, cooking at least two meals a day and often three. The majority is made from scratch. The bread, the cakes, the stews, the roasts, the mayonnaise, the pancakes, the salads. I'm not a martyr, I just play one on TV.

I'd say with prep time and dishes and putting away dishes and getting the dishes out again-I spend about 3-4 hours at counter side every day.

You would think with all that time around food we would've had a better handle on our food budget. Wrong. So very wrong. We budgeted $150/month and we spent (prepare yourselves) on average $408/month. I know. *GASP*

After the shock of adding it all up wore off a bit, I did some digging and revealed some valid excuses for this gross miscalculation. When we came up with the original $150/month we were-in our little bitty brains-thinking only of edible food purchased in a grocery store. What we did not include, but dumped expense wise into this category, was the following:

Meat processing costs of $1370/year for beef and pork. (Except for fish, we raise all our meat.)
Broiler chicks purchase. (When grown we butchered 30 for our freezer)
Garden seeds and plants
Household items like toilet paper, bath & laundry soap making supplies

If I were to separate those items out, and I've decided I won't, we'd be closer to the $150 we budgeted except for the eating out we did. We blame family for that. Hey, if the scapegoat fits...

We'll do  well for a few weeks and then a mother-in-law needs a doctor visit, so we'll take her out on the way home for a meal. Or my sisters and I will gather and it's often at a restaurant and includes a meal. Or, I'll be missing a teen granddaughter and will bribe them to spend a bit of time with me with a meal out. (THIS is worth every penny, they are growing up too fast.) And of course Keith and I still like the occasional Sunday eve. meal out where I get a break from cooking and he gets a break from me whining about all the cooking.

Here's what we are doing for 2018. We raised the food budget to $300/month to account for all the items listed above except the eating out part. That's just weakness on our parts. We decided to invite grandkids on nature walks where we bring homemade snacks with us. (It's worth a shot. We may still have to bribe them with DQ ice cream). I'm going to eat before I meet with my sisters and have just coffee when we get together for gab fests. We're all on diet number 999 this spring anyway, and we're going to invite the mother-in-laws over more often to eat here with us.

But, Keith and I will still have the occasional Sunday meal out to give me a break from cooking and him a break from me complaining about the cooking. 

We're not saints you know.