Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reality .............

The alarm goes off at 5:15 and Honey rolls out of bed. 

I roll over into the nice warm nest that Honey has left.  And for the next 20-30 minutes, I swat at that screeching alarm clock every seven minutes .... just trying to get "just a little more sleep".

I stumble down the stairs ... grab the steaming cup of coffee ....and say "Good Morning!"  to Patches Ann and Honey. 

In that order.

The farm report will share the weather of the day, the crop conditions throughout the country and the latest in the foodie world.  And through hazy eyes .... we watch a doe walk through the bean field across the road. 

Is the haze the result of the humidity ........ or the fact that my drowsy eyes are not ready to face the day?

I slug down that coffee like it was a cold beer on a hot Saturday night.

The knitting needles are never far away and I pick them up and work on another dishcloth.  Always a dishcloth in the morning.   Mindless lace pattern ... no thinking ... little counting .... as I plan out the day.

There is always laundry and dishes.  And weeding and deadheading.  And sewing and knitting and cleaning. Bread to bake ..... the canner seems to be welded to the stove.  Never moving.... always ready.

The list goes on and on.

I am reminded of an old saying ... embroidered on thousands of samplers .....

A man will work from sun to sun but a woman's work is never done.

That needs an alteration.  A farmer's work is never done.

Even with only two acres ..... there is no time for relaxation.  Wood needs to be split.  Laundry needs to be taken off the line and folded.  One coop or both need to be cleaned.  Beans need to be picked. Tomatoes watered.  Weeds pulled.  Flowers fertilized.

I am tired this morning, just thinking about it.

Honey's lunch is packed and he is off to work.  I pull on a pair of jeans .... dirty .... torn ... or patched.  Most of the time .... all three.  Shirt is stained.  Or torn.  Or more likely ... both.

No make-up ... hair barely combed. 

It's definitely not a fashion moment.

I try to keep today's list manageable .....

Weed two rows
Finish dishcloth
Make two sandwich bags
Soak beans for supper
Wash and hang bedding
Freeze pesto
Finish class descriptions

We have all seen the bucolic vision of a little farm.  Strolling through the garden, in a ruffled apron and stylish straw hat, harvesting just the right amount of veggies for supper. Hair is coiffed.  Make-up is perfect.  The garden has no weeds but beautiful wild flowers abound. 

Eggs are collected with no poop on them.  The old farmhouse looks charming .... not shabby.  The lawn is green and lush and always neatly trimmed.  Containers of flowers are everywhere..... and never need watering.

I knew life was not going to be like that!  I knew it was going to be hard work.  But sooo much hard work??? 

Today ...... today I need a day out of a magazine. 

I need my chickens to be peaceful and relaxed and not squawking every two seconds!  I need to walk through the gardens without seeing lamb's quarter that is taller than I am.  I need kittens that curl up on a pillow and not poop in my path. I need peace and quiet and an afternoon nap in the garden.

I need that Pinterest moment.

And it ain't going to happen!








Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Half empty?? Half full??

OK -- I have to be honest here ... I am struggling a bit.

Oh ... business is good.  Bills are under control.  Our health is great.  And work is even getting done around the house ... though it may not be the work that we planned.

No ... this is the struggle. 

60.

Yep ... the number 60.

It gets listed on my driver's license as of Sunday.  I turn 60.

When in the world did I get so old????

Last time I looked .... I was 21!!!

And this is what is getting to me ............ best case scenario, I'm 2/3 done.

Two-thirds of my life is over????  Really???

I've got sooooo much to do!!!!  I am not even close to accomplishing everything I wanted to accomplish.  Heck -- just getting through my yarn and fabric stash alone should keep me going for another 50 years!!!

Those dreams of my youth still haunt my memories.

I wanted to be the first female President of the United States .... and its sad to think, theoretically, it could still happen.

I wanted my house to be published in a magazine.  Old farmhouses with living rooms with blue wallpaper with hearts probably won't make House Beautiful.  (Cue the 1980's geese!)

I wanted to weigh what my driver's license says I weigh.  Yea ... Not. So. Much.

So very much more I want to  do .... and the question is, Will I?

Everyone says .... It is only a number.  And it is.

But its a BIG number!

It seemed so old when I was 19. 

It seemed so far away.

And now its here.

I guess I will just have to stay tuned to watch the end of the story. 

I hope you will watch with me.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Our Changing Landscape ... part 2

In the flower industry .... cuts that come from shrubs like hydrangea, viburnum and willow are called woodies.

I was going to title this post ... "the year of the woody".  But my very infantile-minded friends .. would immediately start giggling.  And I would be the butt of another joke.

Welcome to Beer Tuesday!  :)

Our plan this year was to spend most of the summer working on the house.

Cue Queen.

Yep ... another plan bit the dust.

So we jump on plan two!

All that remains of the willow ......


 




and the ash ....




is this.



Almost eighteen yards of wood chips that will find its way around my garden.  

Today is stump removal day.

Our stump grinding guy said the lower we got on the stump ... the cheaper it would be.





Yep .... Honey is whittling away on four large stumps and should have then all close to the ground by the time the stump grinder arrives.

He really needs a new chain saw and a good wife would make a note of that for a Christmas present.  

But what is there to cut down???  All of our large trees are down.

It may be a new Swiss Army knife!!!

So in the changes ............



 The Henry Lauder's Walking Stick was moved to the pond.  Not the best time of year to transplant ANYTHING   but we did it.  The leaves show signs of transplant shock but I think it just might make it.

The pond, on the other hand, needs resuscitation.  Liner needs to be replaced ... pumped died ... currently, it is a slimy, stinky mess.  It's another project that has been pushed back farther and farther down the list.

 Where the contorted fig (Henry Lauder's Walking Stick) was ... we planted this small but pretty Limelight hydrangea standard.  It had been pruned for ease of shipment.





But now ... I'm excited to report that small buds are forming!





Yea ... that will make me smile!

Right now, we have two new trees to plant in the place of the ash and the willow.  Including a beautiful paper bark maple!  (Smile number two!!!!)

Honey .... did you say something????  

You think we may need another tree???

Yep ... looks like we will be at our favorite garden center come closing time!!!!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

My snarky is coming through ....

I have been diagnosed with a dominant snarky gene.

I am absolutely certain of it.  If there was a test .... it would say that.  Dominantly snarky!

And I find ... the older I get .... the harder it is to hide it.

I mean .... I really do try to be nice.

But sometimes ..... me ... being nice???  Not so much.

I had that moment yesterday.

I got a phone call from the manager of a new community venture in a near by town.  He was looking to buy eggs at a wholesale .... so he could re-sell them at a profit.

Now ... selling eggs at a wholesale price is usually not a good deal for me.  I currently have a waiting list for our eggs.   I like to have eggs for our customers that come to the farm.  And my break-even point is usually below the "wholesale" price.  And when I sell eggs at wholesale .... I want it to be for our local restaurant .... The Depot.

Most small farmers in my area quickly sell out of fresh farm eggs so I don't know too many that have extra. But  I did give him a couple of names.

It surprised me as he did not recognize any of the names I gave him ..... and had no clue about their location and what they did.  He might as well been plucked out of Chicago for the knowledge he had about our neighborhood and little town.

And then .... he said something that released the snarky in me.

Well -- maybe we can help you advertise to help your business.

At that very moment ... there were four cars in my driveway ... three different groups, chatting, relaxing, picking flowers and having fun. 

There were kids on the swing.

A picnic in the corn-zebo.

Photos were being snapped left and right.

A tour bus had just left.

I had just gotten two or three hugs from people as they had gotten out of their cars.

And there it was!!! SNARKY!!!!

Your advertising won't increase my business.

Yea..... I said that.  Out loud.  And not just that little evil voice that lives in my brain.

I said it right to him .... out loud.  Because it is true.  No amount of advertising will increase my business.

Only one thing will.  Well ... two things.

Quality product.  Fun, friendly, warm atmosphere. 

And advertising can't give me that.  No matter how much you think it does ... it doesn't increase business.  It may increase visibility ... if people see it.  But it can't increase business on its own.

This is what increases business for me ..... this is a letter I received yesterday.

Dear Cathy,

I'm writing to thank you for the magical experience of picking flowers for our daughter Maggie's wedding to Jaron, in June.  It remains one of the biggest highlights of an incredible wedding week.  

The flowers were just spectacular, and we'll never forget the fun and beauty of picking them ourselves on your glorious far! Your warmth and joy heightened the wonder of the day -- Lizzy still wants to come and live with you.  Maggie and Jaron are so grateful to you, too for making their beautiful wedding even more breathtaking.

Thanks from all of us.

Advertising might bring people in .... it might let people know you are there.

But only you and quality product can increase your business.

But you can't be snarky!!!!
 








Sunday, July 13, 2014

Anality

Webster's Dictionary has many definitions for anality.

In this household ... it is defined as Miss Eff and Honey agonizing on home improvement projects.

We have our own division of "labor" ..... so to speak.

Honey is all about straight, level, square and the ability to actually do the above mentioned home improvement project.  (Cuz occasionally .. I'll come up with some pretty outrageous ideas!)

I am all about proportion, color and style ....and what is House Beautiful going to say.  Because I am certain they are driving around ... saying .......... That light is too small.  Or ... Really?? They used that color of shutter with that color of roof?

AAAARRRGH!!!!!

Yea .... we agonize.  Separately, but equally.

So currently, we are laying out a new sidewalk.  And a small patio.  And lights.



That should be easy enough.

NOT!!!!!!

I want the sidewalk to be 4' wide.  The width of the step into the house. See the layout cords???  Wide enough that two people can walk side by side.


 



But as you can see ...... the steps weren't built straight, square, level to the rest of the house. 

And as usual .... we can only do things one little step at a time.  New steps will have to come later.

(Hey!!!  We pay cash for all our home improvements!!  I'm damn proud of that!!  And so little steps, it will be!)

So Honey is agonizing over that.  See this big hunk of concrete


It wasn't going to be leaving until the steps went out.  But now it is.

Bye-Bye!

Me .... I have my own issues.

Currently .... I am all about lighting!  Lights in the kitchen ... lights in the living room.  Garden lights.  Path lighting.  Porch lighting.  And post lights.

And I hate the big box home centers lighting selection!!  And post lights are the WORST!!!!

First of all .... they all look alike.  Like we all live in a carriage house.  Oh, they may be white or black.  Some may have brass trim ... but they look pretty much alike!  And they don't fit an old farmhouse look.

Secondly ... they are much too small.  The average house built in America is now 2300 square feet.  Most of the home center post lights would proportional fit a 900 square foot home.  I know it is all about cost.  If they stocked larger lights ... the price would be more and therefore, they would sell less.

And lastly, they are made out of plastic.  Most of the time, you can drive around a neighborhood and see lamp after lamp that are broken.  Whether its the top, the glass inserts .... they don't work for the long term.

So I had some specific requirements ...

They had to be dark sky certified.

They had to blend with the roof, gutters and future house colors.



They had to be metal ... post, light ... and not just cheap pot metal!

And they had to have a "different" look.

Yea ... define that one for me!  Cuz I can't!




Well ........ this is what I bought.  Solid brass light with a bronze finish ....the aluminum post was by another company.  I was worried about color blend ... but I am pleased.

This is not installed ... just a "lookie-see" how this placement will look.  It will be much lower.

And then, I go back to work.




Move shrub ... Move bell .... Find screen door for the porch ...  Move plant bracket to other side of door to balance out the light fixture.

Anal .... I tell ya, we are anal!!!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Changing Landscape.....

You know how you make plans .... and then life happens!

I was a decorator by trade for several decades.  So my thought process is based in decorating terms.

Declutter
Use what you have in different ways.
Then ... buy new.

We had a schedule of things we wanted to do this summer.  And then we had a "dark and stormy night".

We have done all the clean-up we can do so on Monday .... things change around here.

It is time to declutter.


Our ash tree is coming down.  I was hoping that there might be a way to save it but unfortunately, it is too far gone and far too dangerous to stay.

The main part of the tree will join this pile of fire wood.

We can use that next winter!



 And then ... there is the willow.  Willows just seem to say "Old farmhouse".  The dreamy feeling of swinging on the low hanging branches.  Picnics under the shade.   There is a sense of antiquity to willows... huge and gnarly trees that feel like they have been there forever.

But this tree is only 16 years old.  I bought a whip of a tree for $1.00 during a close out sale.  Yea ... a buck.  One dollar.  And now,  it is about 30 feet tall.

It too, is much too dangerous to leave standing.


It will be completely ground up into mulch ....

As will this pile.



And this pile.


And this pile.



We use a LOT of mulch.

And that will be a lot of decluttering!!!

So that all happens on Monday.

I'm just staying out of the way.  After all .... I did see "Fargo".  ;)

Those were the "unplanned" changes.

These .... well, these changes were written on sheets of paper and talked out last winter.



We need a new sidewalk.  So when we talked it out.... it just made sense to "extend" our porch with some additional living space.  This area will become a paver patio so the Sand Plum cherry will be moved toward the barn.

And the pavers arrived the Saturday before the storm .... so there is no turning back on that project!!!

I have not been happy with the landscaping in front of the house. The last couple of years, I have ignored it in anticipation of the new siding and paint.

I'm still ignoring it.

But I am very unhappy with the look of this shrub.





You can see why!!!  Seriously ... what is that thing??

Well ... it is a Contorted Fig or more commonly known, as a Henry Lauder's Walking Stick.

I WANTED one of these soooooooo bad!!!



But now????

Yea ... not so much.

Hopefully ... we will try to transplant it near the very dirty pond that also needs a make-over.  :(

So .. that is the de-cluttering, moving stages of our Landscape Decorating project.

I'll update you on new additions later!




Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Five Star Customer Service

We all complain about the lack of good customer service.

 Lord knows, you have heard the woes about my washer!  Over and over and over again.

This time, I am singing the praises about a great retailer.

As most of you know ... we live in an 1890 Victorian Classic-L farmhouse.  And restoring an old house like this takes time ............. and money ......... and a lot of searching for just the right pieces.

It would probably be wiser to work on just one room at a time.  But no one has ever said I was wise.

So I buy something for the kitchen ... something for the office ... a little something for the bedroom.  Slowly I make a little progress all around.

I have plans for my living room.  I want these curtains .... over these shades ..... and this lamp will sit on the table in front of the bay window.

I've been watching this lamp around cyber space.  It finally went on sale at House of Antique Hardware.
I have used the retailer for all sorts of hardware, window lifts, shelf brackets but I have never ordered a lamp from them.

Yesterday .... it arrived.

I have to admit I was excited.



I put it together and sat it in front of the window ..... without these curtains or shades.

But .... as I am sharing the excitement of my new lamp with a friend  ... I see this.


A small break in the filigree.  I checked all the packing and nothing was there.  Obviously, someone else had missed the break when shipping it.

I contacted House of Antique Hardware and sent them a photo.

Today ... they called me with "good news and great news".

First ..... they are replacing the lamp.  Not just the shade but the entire lamp.  AND I get to keep the lamp that I received!!

Seriously!

That is 2 lamps for the price of one (realizing that one does have a minor defect.)

And the new lamp has shipped already.

A-mazing!!!

So .... if you hear me sing the praises of Quoizel and the House of Antique Hardware over and over and over again ....you will know why.

Cuz 5 star customer service needs to be celebrated!!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Just sayin' "Yes"!

Maybe some of you have noticed that I am trying hard to learn a new word for me.

No.

No ... that's the word I need to learn.

But I have to say .... saying "yes" has been the most fun!!

Several years ago ... I never dreamed that anyone (other than Honey and I) would ever want to get married on the farm.  When I was asked ... I probably appeared shocked. 

Here???  You want to get married here??

But since that time ... we have met amazing couples that share a little bond with Honey and me...... being married on a hill, overlooking a lush green farm field.

I was be-fuddled when some one asked to use our farm for photography sessions.  But I hesitantly said ... Yes, if you want to. 

And now ... a week doesn't go by that we don't have a photo shoot of some kind on the farm.

I don't make a lot of money ($25 per session) but it's a little extra to help with farm decor purchases.  And I get to see my farm through the talented eyes of a photographer.

When I was asked if I sewed .... I stumbled through the statement ... I used to sew a lot.  And although, I am certain I hyper-ventilated through teaching my first sewing class, it has released the absolute joy of sewing that was trapped within my soul.

I have said Yes to interviews after others said NO.

Saying Yes ... may take you out of your comfort zone.

Saying Yes .. may cut into your regularly scheduled day.

Saying Yes ... may be inconvenient, scary, and frightening.

But saying yes, has brought me opportunities, joys, excitement and friends .... that I would never have met.

You can live your life safely .. by saying no every time a question is asked.  Or you can take a chance to fail by saying yes.

I have crashed time after time after time.  Failure is never fun.

But I have soared against the clouds .... and flying so high is much more fun than staying firmly and safely in your own little corner.