Dear Mom and Dad,
I got to talk with Melissa on the phone today! It’s hard to believe that she is in the last stretch before giving birth to her fourth baby. She says she is beginning to feel tired and I believe it! We talked a little bit about how appealing it sounds to live in a time and place where we are a short walk from other family members’ houses. To be able to drop in on each other for short visits and have that community and family availability. As it is, it’s been since Christmas that we’ve spent time with each other. We made plans for an early “cousins” birthday party at the end of March. It’s early for all of the April/May birthdays (of which there are many!) but her due date for the next April kid is too close to have more parties in April this year! Anyway, we decided to gather at our house, forego the gifts, but make peanut butter balls, let them choose their own favorite meals, watch a full-length move (a treat for the kids), and take the two oldest birthday kids out for something special without the younger kids. Don’t tell Melissa, but I’m going to give her some disposable size 1 diapers too since I’m sure she will enjoy a little less fuss in the first month with her new baby. I wonder if it’s a boy or a girl!!!?
President’s Day at our house isn’t a time of thinking about Presidents. However, since Brian’s work gives all federal holidays, it means we are all home! So, today, Brian is butchering roosters. Our poor hens. I thought we had four roosters… which is bad enough. But I recently discovered that a few of the chickens I thought were hens… are indeed roosters. So, it is high time Brian went a-butcherin’! I don’t know why, but it takes forever. Brian does a good job so I suppose it’s just practice that will help us be faster. Although, I do stay as far away as possible. haha! I dressed the the first few roosters we butchered, but the smell and feel of a warm dead bird were just too much for me.
Brian repaired our pellet stove! It involved pulling it out, cleaning out the pellet dust in the hopper, repairing the connection to the vent pipe, cleaning the vent pipe, testing the electrical components and buying a fuse… basically just being awesome. It works really well so we are enjoying the warmth of a wood fire with almost none of the hassle. Sure, it doesn’t work when the power is out and the pellets are not free, but it is really convenient and comfortable. (The power went out for 2 hours last night – it was wiiiiiiindy!) I am rather liking the placement of the pellet stove in our house too. You know how it’s in the room to the side of the house rather than central? Well, that means I can keep this side of the house nice and warm, but turn the heat pump way down (to 63) for the rest of the house and we’re all comfortable. I really hope it helps save us money on the utility bill. It was really getting up there. Something like $350/month for electricity. I don’t know precisely off the top of my head… I just know that the number continues to shock me. And we have a great electricity rate and efficient heat pump too.
We have made some new friends! Wendy and Tim have four kids, 9-17 years old and live just about 20 minutes from us. But they’re way up in our neck of the woods, so it doesn’t seem far. I have prayed for a local friend who would be a spiritual and parenting mentor to me for a long time and I believe God’s answering my prayer. We visited church with them yesterday and then hung out at their house for hours afterwards, eating lunch together, exploring their farm and trying to talk between the interruptions of our young family. Jordan only broke one thing (a mason jar full of pickle juice)… :-/ Sorry, Wendy! And we got home to find Maggie with a 101.9 fever, so it’s amazing we did so well! Carolyn also screamed full blast three times in service as I tried sitting down with her again three times…. oh my, was that ever embarrassing! I did eventually take her back to the nursery where she did fine.
I am having a wonderful time planning a garden! There’s deciding which plants to try and grow and ordering a few seeds from Territorial, but there’s also… you know… planning and trying to build an actual garden bed! Brian and I made good use of your pickup (which is still nice and dry inside) by hauling a whole pallet of cheap cinder blocks home in it. I did some tricks to get the cost down too. I bought a 10% off coupon off ebay for $5 which saved us $40 off our big purchase of things garden related. (We bought some drain pipe too – should tell you about ditch digging) Then, I went to cardpool.com and ordered some Lowe’s gift cards that were discounted 9%, so I paid for our purchase with those and felt pretty awesome for saving almost $80 by my easy efforts. (If anybody would like to order gift cards from cardpool.com for the first time, if you go through my referral link, I’ll get $5 towards my next gift card: http://refer.cardpool.com/v2/share/5981437811919490747
So yes… ditches. Turns out if you can get a dry day in the middle of winter, ditch digging by hand is not such a horrible thing! I found it rather fun. Maybe it’s just because I was outdoors in the sunshine and having uninterrupted work time, but I was sad when my hands got sore, my arms got tired and I had to stop. The first place we started a ditch (which needs to be enlarged before it’s done being dug) is along the side of the chicken coop. Their coop doesn’t have gutters and it has water runoff problems from the hill above it too. So I just dug a straight ditch along the uphill roofline that drops off the side of the hill. When it’s done, we’ll put in some of the drainage pipe we bought and then fill it with gravel. At first, we’ll get gravel from our front yard where a lot of red lava rock was spread for how nice it looked.
The second ditch we’re digging is on the “garden hill.” You know, where it’s terraced a bit? We’re decided to do another big project this spring and we’re going to plant 30 nice blueberry bushes. That means we need to put a ditch all along the uphill side of the row, and add peat moss and sawdust to the rows… and lower the pH. And do a drip system. And we’re going to make one large raised bed in our front yard for vegetables this year. I’m sure four large garden beds is closer to how much food I want to grow here, but we are listening at least a little bit to our limitations. ha!
So I think that’s what’s been going \on lately! We do school most days, have some fun, read lots of books and spend time with friends.
I love you!
A few pictures:
After the storm
Building snow forts and sledding!
The snow was still pretty powdery, but packed a little this day. The next day was the last day of snow play and was the best day for snowballs. Now…. now it is raining up a storm!
Much hot cocoa was had over the four snow days!!!
Giggling as Papa throws snowballs at them.
The giant snowman!
Carolyn was laying on Smoke for a good minute til I took out my camera. Then she started crawling off him and Smoke stood up.
Wish this had turned out. Carolyn loves to feed her snacks to Smoke. She will sit and feed him one Cheerio at a time.
Ah…. puddle days!
This little one is such a mess maker!
Jordan needed some fun time since he doesn’t like snow and I don’t usually let him loose in the rain.
Yay for water play!
Why are my rags never folded any more?
Brian wanted to take a picture of Jordan. Jordan wanted supper. (He is signing “eat”)
Teaching Smoke and Carolyn bad manners at once… for the sake of a cute video.
Giggling at snowballs… both Carolyn and Maggie were yelling “Paaaapaaaaa!” til I go the camera out: