Category Archives: Kids

Staying Busy

It is a familiar theme on my blog the last few years – I show up and post some updates and then disappear again.  I really do not have any good excuses, except that life is busy and blogging falls to the bottom of my “to do” list.  I always imagined that life would slow down and get less busy as my parenting duties decreased, but that certainly has not been the case. Our motivation for buying and moving to this little hobby farm 15 years ago was to create an interesting life for our small children and to give them a taste of the country life we experienced growing up.  Well, those children are not small any more and in fact, two of them have been out of the house for a few years already. We only have one remaining at home and in only a year, we will be empty nesters.  Maybe then I will have more time?

In defense of my latest absence in the blogosphere, my spring and summer has been an especially crazy, chaotic and wonderful one.  Our oldest son graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in May and we spent a week out in New York for all the graduation week activities.  Family and friends joined us to celebrate our son’s accomplishment and we could not have been more proud to see him achieve his goal!

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Immediately after the graduation ceremony, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.  Another proud moment for our family.commissioning

After returning home from our amazing week out east, we immediately refocused our attention on preparing for that same son’s wedding at the end of June.

See?  I was not exaggerating when I said it has been a busy spring and summer for our family.  Like graduation, the wedding was wonderful and the day was filled with friends, family and so much love.wedding

Despite all the preparations and celebrations in our life, we did manage to get our vegetable garden planted this spring and it is coming along quite nicely.  We have already enjoyed an abundance of asparagus, lettuce, arugula, and spinach this spring.  Soon we will be harvesting more delicious and fresh produce to eat.

Here is a view of our onions, string beans, carrots and beets.  My sunflowers are shooting up along the fence.beans The climbing plants, cucumbers and squash, are starting to make their way up the supports that Jesse built for them a few years back.  I go out there every few days to try to direct the newest growth up the wire.climbingveggies According to the old saying, if all is going well, corn plants should be “knee-high by the Fourth of July.”  Our corn plants are clearly doing well, because they were armpit high by the Fourth of July this year!  Now if we can protect the crop from the raccoons we might just get to enjoy some sweet corn in a month or so.corn2We planted tomato plants before leaving in the middle of May to drive out to West Point for graduation week. We knew it was risky because the rule of thumb around our area of Minnesota is to hold off planting until after Memorial Day.  Not surprisingly, we did have a hard frost while we were gone and almost all of our newly planted tomatoes froze out.  Upon returning home, after Memorial Day, we replanted.  The new tomato plants are happy and thriving in the heat and we should start getting some cherry tomatoes soon.

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After a disastrous infestation of potato bugs a few years back, we opted out of planting potatoes for two years afterwards.  We planted one row last year to see what would happen and all went well.  This year we increased to two rows and so far, we are all in the clear.  No sign of potato bugs and the plants are going crazy.potatoes A similar experience with squash bugs made us take last year off from all members of the squash family. We did not plant any squash, zucchini or pumpkins.  Taking a year or two off from planting crops that experienced bug infestations has worked well for us in the past, and like the potatoes, the pumpkins are doing well so far and showing no signs of those disgusting insects.  We will keep our fingers crossed that they do not make an appearance later in summer.pumpkinsBesides our vegetable garden, I have been busy in my flower gardens and there have been some other new projects around here that I hope to share some time soon in another post.

In the meantime, I hope your summer is going well and that wherever you are, that you are enjoying the warm summer days and nights!

Staying busy, but happy, in Minnesota…

Lynell

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Icicles and Instagram

I am a self-confessed picture-taking junkie and have been for years.  My kids were conditioned at a young age to stop and look at the camera when I asked, and over the years they have put up with being photographed an awful lot.

Not only do I take pictures of them, I also take pictures of anything that catches my attention or strikes me as a good shot to capture.  Seeing their mom out in the yard, in the garden, or down by the river taking pictures has always been a common sight.  None of them have demonstrated any similar interest or passion for photography however…that is, until recently.

You see, our daughter got an iPhone in November, her first smart phone.  The combination of having a fairly decent camera in her phone and her discovery of the Instagram app has sparked an interest in photography.  For those unfamiliar with Instagram, it is a smart phone application that allows you to snap a picture, choose a filter to transform the picture, and then share it with friends through the Instagram site or various other social medias.

I have enjoyed watching her interest in photography via Instagram unfold.  I am no longer the only one looking around for or noticing what might be a good shot.  If I see something that is potentially an interesting photo, I’ll say to her, “you should Instagram that.”

Take, for example, just yesterday as we were pulling into our yard after church and we noticed all the icicles hanging off our buildings.  I suggested that she should Instagram a picture of them. So, we changed out of our church clothes, put on our boots, and headed outside to photograph the icicles – her with an iPhone and I with my camera.

Of course, it is not always easy to get a good shot.  Although the icicles looked cool hanging precariously off the shed in person, just snapping a shot of them from a distance was a little too boring.

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Standing on the ground below the icicles and taking a photo was also blah.
DSC_0010We discussed composition and how to get a more creative shot from a different perspective.  She got a step-ladder out of the garage, which allowed us to shoot some pictures from a higher angle.

Finally, a more interesting photo of the icicles melting and sliding off the pole shed.

iceSo, after our photo shoot of icicles together, what picture does she decide to apply a filter to and share via Instagram???

Of course, the somewhat unflattering one of me that she took, unbeknownst to me, while I was on the step-ladder taking my own pictures of the icicles.  🙂

I did appreciate her caption however, as it holds so true:

“The things we do for a good shot.”
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Here are just a few of the other shots she has taken around the farm over the past months and shared via Instagram.

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photo7If I do say so myself, I think I have a budding photographer in the house.  And I couldn’t be more excited!!

Lynell

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Making a Farm Table from Salvaged Lumber

With the completion of the first phase of our patio and fire-pit area last spring, I went in search of finding a suitable table to add to the area.  We visited many outdoor furniture stores and I searched endlessly on-line, not knowing exactly what it was I was searching for.

patio15I felt like too many of the table sets looked modern and would seem out-of-place with the barn as the backdrop.  Finally, I stumbled across a table that caught my eye on the Restoration Hardware website; it was a big chunky farm table made from 100-year-old salvaged elm doors, with a hefty price tag of around $3,500.00…and that was on sale.

I showed it to Jesse and after he studied it a bit, he told me he thought he could make something similar.  He forwarded the picture to his dad, who is a skilled wood craftsman, and they discussed how to tackle the project.

larkspurWhen we first purchased the farm twelve years ago, an old farmhouse stood on the property.  Before tearing it down to build our current house, Jesse and his dad salvaged materials from the old structure; bricks, wood flooring, baseboard and trim, doors, and floor stringers made from rough sawed wood.  We used some of the wood flooring in our new home and stored the rest of the salvaged wood in the barn for some unknown future use.  Jesse thought he could use some of the salvaged elm floor stringers to make the farm table.

We planned the project so that our oldest son would be home on leave from West Point.  He is very interested in woodworking and we thought it would be a great learning opportunity for him.  We also coordinated with Jesse’s dad to make sure he could come down to advise and assist.
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After digging the boards out of the loft of the barn, the first task was to remove all the nails.  The next challenge was to plane the boards down to both make them smooth and to create some uniformity in their thickness.
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Basing the table measurements off the dimensions of the Restoration Hardware  table, they started to assemble the table and square up the ends.

DSC_0027Once the boards for the table top were planed and cut to the proper length it was time to work on the structure that would hold everything together. The guys decided that 1 1/2 in. angle iron would provide the proper strength and be consistent with the rugged appearance. Our son started to measure, mark and drill the holes in the angle iron that the carriage bolts would be bolted through.
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With the angle iron prepared it was time to square up the table and begin to drill the holes and mount the angle iron. Measure twice and cut once 🙂

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There was quite a bit of discussion on how to design and build the legs for the table. Jesse’s dad does a good job of explaining what they are doing and why. Jesse and his dad have done so many projects together over the years that they usually quickly understand where they are going, so bringing our oldest son up to speed is an important step.DSC_0025

They clamped the boards for the legs together and drilled holes to attach the angle iron that will connect the legs to the table top. To better drill straight holes and minimize errors, they modified a jig.DSC_0026

Without too much trouble, they attached the legs and marked the holes for the table top through the angle iron supports.
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The guys were surprised how heavy the table was now that it was completely assembled. They turned the table over and stepped back to admire their handiwork. Things were looking pretty good.
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We have had some outside furniture over the years and have tried many stains and varnishes but they have never held up to the elements. To avoid the peeling and to keep a rustic look, we decided to use a natural oil sealant. The old dry lumber really soaked up the oil and highlighted the grain nicely. We will need to apply a fresh coat each spring, but this approach should avoid having to sand and reapply varnish every 2-3 years.DSC_0002

I used a small art brush to get the oil in between the boards. DSC_0007

Here is the finished product as the second coat of oil is still soaking in and drying off. The shine goes away and a nice natural feeling surface remains. DSC_0014

And finally…our new farm table!  Total cost of the table was around $200 for the angle iron and carriage bolts.  Much better than $3,500, don’t you agree?

DSC_0017I absolutely LOVE our new table!  The price was right and I think it fits perfectly with our farm setting.

Most importantly though, I love it because it was made by these three special guys working together.

Lynell

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Maiden Voyage

We have lived on the river for over a decade now and have a very good understanding of its unpredictable nature.  Sometimes it is completely flooded in the spring for weeks on end.  Other times, like this year, there is no flooding and the transition from winter to summer is uneventful.

Heavy summer rains can also cause it to rise unexpectedly and flood during the hottest months of summer.  During those types of summers, we are not able to go down and enjoy the river much at all.  I’m a little freaked out by the power of a flooded river and have always forbade my children from going near it in those conditions.

We have often talked about getting some kayaks or a canoe to explore the river beyond just walking along its bank on our property.  During some of the summers when the water has been low, we have actually walked in the water a ways up-stream to explore.  The kids have also navigated it a little aboard our oldest son’s scow boat creation, but that was pretty labor intensive and they never really went that far.

With the early spring and low water levels (remember, we haven’t even had a real winter here in Minnesota), we decided to finally take the plunge and buy some kayaks to explore this winding river.  We took them out on our maiden voyage this weekend.

We decided to head upstream first to see how difficult it was to paddle against the current.  Floating downstream first, only to discover it was impossible to navigate upstream, seemed like a bad idea.

Keep in mind it was April 1st yesterday here in Minnesota.  The sun was shining and the temperature was in the 60’s.  Crazy.

We bought two single kayaks and one double.  That way, the kids can each have their own vessel to maneuver, and theoretically it will prevent them from bickering and blaming each other when they go floating into a tree or slam into the river bank.

The double kayak works out well for me because I can just sit back and enjoy the scenery while Jesse paddles, or, I can blame him when we get off course.

We were all real excited about the new kayaks and about being on the river.  It is something we have talked about for so long and yesterday we were finally doing it!

The river has a lot of fallen trees in its winding path.  Most of the time you can navigate around them, but sometimes you have to get out on to the river bank and go around.

After going upstream quite a ways, which was new territory for us, we ran into a tree jam that we weren’t able to navigate through with the double kayak (the kids managed to push themselves through with the singles).  We decided to head back downstream since we were just out for a leisurely afternoon paddle to explore.

Going downstream is a breeze.  Paddling is only required to keep the kayak on course.

In a few weeks, the river will look much different as the leaves fill out and form a canopy.  And then, the mosquitoes will hatch…and the whole experience will become very different. We will have to figure out how to deal with that aspect when the time comes.

After our maiden voyage on the river, we were very pleased that we finally decided to buy some kayaks.  We are hoping that was just the first of many lazy weekend days spent together paddling along the river.

Lynell

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A Quick Update…

It has been months since I last posted here on my blog.  Life has been incredibly busy and other things have taken priority.  I decided it was time to take a few moments to post an update about life here on the farm, even if it is just a quick one.

1)  My hubby spent three months this past winter in China for his job (November – January).  I single-parented in his absence and absolutely nothing else got done around here.

2)  In early February, our oldest received an appointment to West Point.  He had worked towards this goal since his freshman year, so he was very excited.  And of course, we are very proud of him.

3)  Later in March, he received an appointment to the Air Force Academy and faced a difficult choice between the two.

After much deliberation, he chose West Point.  I think it will be a good fit for him.

4)  With the news that we would not be forking out cash for college tuition this fall, we decided to take one last family vacation over Easter break.  So, we went to Hawaii for 10 days.  It was wonderful.  I could write volumes about how much I love this place, all the fun stuff we did, the memories we made, etc.  But instead, I’ll just post this one picture.

5)  Somewhere along the way this spring we managed to find time to make maple syrup.  We had a little less sap than last year and ended up with about the same amount of syrup.  Everything went really well except the filtering again.  We still need to figure out how to improve on that part of the process.

6)  Just to keep things interesting (and because our laying hens are getting old), we got 35 baby chicks this spring.  About 15 of them are new laying hens and the rest are just temporary residents that are destined for the kitchen table.

7)  We also got our new honeybees:  one package and one nuc.  They seem to be doing well so far, despite the cold and rainy spring we have had here in Minnesota.

8 )  And besides all of this, we are in the midst of all the chaos of having a senior in high school:  final concerts, award ceremonies, banquets, prom, baccalaureate, graduation, and planning a graduation open house!

9)  I’m terribly behind in the gardens (it’s been wet and cold here).  So far I have only planted lettuce and cilantro in the vegetable garden.  I have cleaned up most of the perennial gardens but need to go to battle with the dandelions and other fierce spring weeds.

10)  Our oldest leaves on June 26th for West Point.  Once I have him out the door, I will try to gather myself together and put one foot in front of the other…and then resume running around with the other two that are still at home!  🙂  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll have more time to start blogging more regularly.

Hope your spring is going well!

Lynell

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A Field of Ice

We were enjoying warmer spring-like temperatures a week ago here in Minnesota and our ridiculously large piles of snow finally started melting.  All that melting snow meant that a LOT of water was trying to make its way from our hay-field down towards the river.

The water was still backed up in the field when the temperatures plunged to below freezing once again over this past week.  As a result, our hay-field turned into a giant ice rink.  With a free day on the calendar yesterday, the kids decided to take advantage of the ice.

They grabbed their ice skates, some hockey sticks and a tennis ball and headed out to the hay-field.

With their boots in place to mark the goal area, it wasn’t long before they had a lively game of hockey going on.

None of my kids are hockey players, but I think they do pretty well on the ice for only getting their skates on a couple of times a year.

I thought they were a little crazy at first when they decided to head out to play on the ice.  The latest winter storm was rolling in and the wind was really whipping out of the east.

I was freezing when I went out to take pictures of them.  As I glanced out the window later, I noticed they had taken their jackets off and were skating around in sweatshirts!  These kids are hardy Minnesotans!

Sofie was trying to figure out what we were all doing out in the hay-field.  She went out to watch the kids play and when I showed up to take pictures she looked over at me inquisitively.

Everyone eventually came inside to warm up and enjoy our Sunday brunch.

The predicted snow finally started to arrive in the afternoon and the kids talked their dad into going out on the ice before the snow covered it up.

I went out to take pictures again.  I didn’t last long.  I’m a Minnesota girl, but am definitely not as hardy as my husband and kids.

Each year around this time, I tell myself that I am better suited to live where it is always warm and they have palm trees and sandy beaches.  I always get over it…you have to when you live here.

It snowed the rest of the day and through most of today.  We now have about a foot of fresh snow!  The recent teasing of a spring thaw is just a distant memory, as we are now buried in snow once again.   And so is the ice rink in the hay-field.

Hockey in the hay-field.  I never would have imagined…

Lynell

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Merry Christmas!

The Christmas cards are sent, the presents are purchased, the stockings are hung, and the meals are planned.

Now it is time to take a deep breath and focus on the real reason for the season.

Wishing everyone a wonderful and meaningful Christmas!

Lynell

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