Haus Meister reminded me the other day that the latest blog post still began with “April” in the Middle English, thus galvanizing me into action! Especially as August with all its busy-ness is hard upon my heels—it’s time to catch up on the doings around here!
Farewell to “Brockhall”
Just about this time of year in 2020, this lovely chestnut oak, a full and rich green in its day, suddenly decided to go dry brittle brown on us and it wasn’t a drought. No signs of life from it in 2021, we were at the mercy of the local tree men who were themselves overbooked after several Spring and Summer storms, not to mention the resurgence of Covid. Finally, at the start of this summer, a crew came out and took down the tree the kids had named “Brockhall,” after a giant tree in the Redwall book series. Gone but not forgotten, it lives on in the five deep stacks of logs waiting for the autumn splitting, and two huge stacks of milled wood in our workshop waiting to become furniture as the need arises.
Meanwhile, back on the Farm
The barnyard has been in a state of flux lately. In June, Rascal sold his entire stock of rabbits to a family who were interested in homesteading. That officially ended the rabbit chapter here, unless one of the little girls wheedles for one—and only ONE—rabbit in the future. ;). We all learned a lot about the furry beasties, and which of them were good mothers, and which were not. Also which little blighters managed to exploit unexpected exits in the rabbit hutch.
I just realized this picture had been taken before the Rouens and Khaki Campbells had grown out their adult feathers. They really are a striking set, except it turns out there are five males and two females in that set.
The Pekins and the two roosters hatched last November became meat birds as we began a “farm to table” aspect of the farm life. However, on the very day those seven birds went to processing, an Orpington hatched seven chicks in our hayloft! Fortunately, we were on to her before any chicks made a leap out of said hayloft, and they had a happy start on terra firma. Only three survived the first week, and they are already running all over the barnyard and add a good deal of entertainment. Amusingly? Mama Chicken decided as her chicks grew that their ideal roost would be in the rafters next to the hayloft ladder. She wins in the end!
As in workshop news, that is. Haus Meister and Rascal spent a week at a Blacksmithing Institute building a Tire Power Hammer to complement our home smithy. It was a fun week for the two of them! Rascal is definitely meant for that kind of work and we’re intrigued to see where his discernment path leads as he progresses through high school.
Tonight the wind was out of the west-nor’west and gusted down our driveway, past the front of our house, into and over the barn and through the woods beyond. If it were stronger, it ought to wail a bit and at least one little girl would need reminding that it’s just the Fall winds coming in. High time, too! We’ve had cooler days, and honestly, my Southern-born children sometimes still think they need winter parkas when the weather is in the mid-to-upper 60s. However, tonight the wind brings a cold front that means some modicum of business, and justifies the start of the colors in the leaves and the (7) pumpkins on my porch steps.
Pippka at 5, 6, and 7 months. (No sticker for 7 months because I temporarily misplaced it)
Around the Haus…
Little Pippka continues to grow like crazy and tick off all her milestones right and left. Since turning 7 months old, she has decided to begin the “army crawl” stage and gain a second tooth. She delights her siblings by reaching for them when she wants to be held, especially if I’m the one holding her. She is sitting well in her little chair and is starting solid food. It’s funny how the regimen of baby foods have changed since Trooper was the red-headed baby of the Haus. With him it was strictly rice cereal first (thickened in his case, but still!), and now it’s “whatever you’re having, just mashed.” I first realized this at a friend’s house where I was visiting while expecting Pippka, and I was surprised to see her little girl playing with spaghetti and soft carrots at 7 months! Suddenly, even though it’s been about four years since last putting a baby through solids, I felt like I was a generation behind in my parenting methods! Is this how our grandmothers felt when they were told it wasn’t allowed to feed infants orange juice until a certain age? (All in good fun, folks!) Now Pippka is exploring pancakes (without syrup) and other things while we keep an eye on her. I can’t say that she’s eating much of it, but she’s entertained.
Back when we were beginning to pack for our move here, I ordered several camping friendly wildlife and nature cards for our new home state, as the kids had been enjoying the nature cards I had given them long before for our then home state. The day the cards arrived in the mail happened to be one where they were feeling blue about leaving everything familiar for the unknown, and I hoped that they would be cheered up by what they saw. The results surprised me. The kids took the cards and dutifully took a gander, and then sat up in amazement. “Mama, Mama, there’s dolphins in this wildlife card!” “Seashells! Seashells! How come this state has seashells?!” I hadn’t thought at the time that they were moving from a landlocked state to one with a coastline, and informed them. Immediately, the kids were excited about this move and new plans were set. “How far to the beach?” We have yet to see a dolphin, but we do have a favorite seaside location that we visited in 2019 and again this summer (skipping 2018 due to moving and settling in, and last summer due to lockdown). It is just far enough to make an epic day trip event of it, where the entire family can get away for a few hours and listen to the ocean, gather the seashells, play in the surf, and get toasted, and still make it home in time to shut the barn doors for the evening.
Top left: Haus Meister and Trooper establish Base Camp. Lower Left: assorted children enjoying the seaside. Right: Bright Eyes after having her hair styled by Madame de la Mer (in other words, Bright Eyes came ashore with a wave that swirled her hair a bit).
The Cats of Misselthwaite…
“What?” You ask, “She has 24 chickens, 8 rabbits, 6 ducks, 4 sheep, and that ridiculous dog, and she’s talking about the cats again?!” If I were to ever go back onto social media, I am tempted to begin an Instagram thread with the above title and find my posts going viral because everyone likes cats on the internet, right? Well, I will be discussing the farm animals as we go, but since our last post the cat population increased by one. This one was a true rescue! Meet Ruby, pictured the day she turned up on our back porch, and then a month later! She has now been with us three months and is quite a fixture. Her name was the result of a misunderstanding. As “Tabitha Twitchett” had been taken by our (by now likely departed) feral stray friend from our first year here, I combed through my Beatrix Potter and decided on “Cousin Ribby” for our newcomer since she was really very emaciated when we met her. However, at adoption the vet tech heard “Ruby” instead of “Ribby” and it stuck. She is a spitfire of a feline gem, after all.
So, how did we end up accidentally rescuing a kitten? On a Sunday in July, I let Sam (aforementioned ridiculous dog) out for his morning constitutional. Moments later, I heard him barking up a storm on the porch, and looking, saw him under the patio table aiming his snout–and barks–at the chair facing the door. Assuming he was giving Bilbo or Oscar a hard time, I went out to chide him (silly dog, those cats don’t care one way or the next what he thinks). There on the porch chair was a small kitten I had seen two days prior, running across our woods. I knew she had a collar but here she was again, on our back porch, all skin and bones and giving Sam a piece of HER mind (and it appeared calculated to be able to make a sailor blush, as the saying goes). I got Sam back inside and then went to meet the newcomer (pleasantly impressed already by the sheer audacity coming from such a small critter). Alas, her collar that I had spied from a distance was actually wrapped around her foreleg, cutting into her skin! There was no telling where she had come from or how long she’d been from home, and no identification on the collar, but I couldn’t just let her sit on our porch and stew like that! So we brought her in, and fortunately there was time before Mass to go out and get kitten food and a basic litter box. Over the next week we haunted the lost pet ads and played phone tag with the vet. The vet clinic five minutes from our house wouldn’t see her at first since she wasn’t ours, and suggested the Humane Society. The Humane Society wouldn’t see her because we were one mile outside city limits (and their jurisdiction), so we’d have to go to the county shelter forty minutes away. I somehow didn’t picture anyone going to look for her there, and so I called our vet again and asked if we could at least get her scanned for a chip. Meanwhile, I searched every lost pet forum and no one seemed to be searching for her. Obviously since we still have her, she wasn’t chipped, no one knew where she had come from, and no one really expected much from taking her nearly an hour away. So we adopted her then and there in the vet clinic and proceeded to take over her full care. She resides in the boys’ room, of all places, and likes holding sway over her domain. She tolerates Oscar alone of all the animals (I am not letting her run around outside yet, so I don’t know how she’d deal with the barnyard). Sam continues to get an explosion out of her, and she seems to have a perpetual enmity with Bilbo. Perhaps it is because they share a similar profile and build, the kind that suggests that their species were once regarded as gods by the Pharaohs, and they have not forgotten.
Now that it is Autumn, the pool is closed and so is “Celtic Music, Cookouts, and Chlorine,” which is our usual theme for summer evenings poolside. We generally don’t mind shutting down the pool on Labor Day evening because the days are shorter anyway, the evenings almost too cool to enjoy the pool, and the trees nearest the pool decide, rather obnoxiously, to begin shedding in advance. Really, by September it becomes more of a chore than a pleasure to keep the pool running any longer. Once the pool craze is over, it’s safe to turn our attention to other tasks that the summer heat, and the clamor of children for swim time, helped put off until now.
In July, Rascal helped me do a project that had been percolating in my mind almost since we arrived. Our upper floor bathroom looked fabulous in the realty pictures, as is the norm for everything in realty pictures, and it might have stayed semi-fabulous except it was the bathroom designed for the three bedrooms allotted to children in the house. The previous owners seemed to have given it better attention than they did the master bathroom (for which I could be thankful, actually). However, the large cabinetry made it hard to sweep beneath, the scrollwork caught any accidental toothpaste drips from those of preschool age, and the doors suffered a quick loss thanks to little girls using them as props to stand up on that interior ledge as a quasi step-stool (step-stools having no real room for maneuverability in here at the time). Plus, any splash from the bathtub whatsoever invariably made its way beneath the sink, and it was, in a nutshell, unpleasant. I finally decided that this summer we would tackle this bathroom before school began (other projects having precedent before now).
In the end, my involvement was the inspiration and materials gathering, while Rascal did the hard work (I did get a fiendish satisfaction of personally hauling away the old sink parts to the local dump. As it turns out, it was rotting beneath the marble facade anyway). Rascal repainted the walls with some white paint we had left over from other rooms (we call it Northern Michigan White, in homage to a favorite extended family vacation cottage). The new sink and cabinetry are a basic model from Home Depot (and yes, one can put a step stool in front of this sink). The mirror is from Wal-Mart, but Rascal spray painted the frame and the light fixtures a nice bronze to update them. The signs next to the tub (first picture) came from Amazon, and the shelf in the middle picture is from IKEA (towels from Target). Originally, I hadn’t planned on removing the old mirror, but once the new sink/vanity was in place, we saw it just didn’t work. Amusingly, as we removed the mirror, a thin piece of folded paper fluttered out. It was an unsatisfactory report card belonging to the son of the second owner of the house (we’re the fourth or fifth owners), dated 1991. I have kept some things that were left behind around here (a cabinet here a side table there), but this wasn’t one of them.
Rascal did earn some goodly reward for his hard work, including a trip to the homemade cookie-ice-cream-sandwich place in town. I think he deserved it.
We are working on other projects that must wait for other posts, but here’s a sneak preview.
I do realize, as I close this post, that contrary to the title, it was more of a summer re-cap than about anything autumnal. No mention until now of sweaters or pumpkin spice lattes, and nary a picture of the maple leaves turning from green to red! However, the breeze outside my window as I type reminds me that autumn is, at last, once again with us. The Cosy Season is back, and while the summer was more hectic than not (the week that Ruby came also saw Bright Eyes having surgery on her finger after accidentally slamming it in a door, Haus Meister’s first overnight business trip since the lockdowns, and Vacation Bible School for more than half the family), it’s good to be here and resting with a hot cuppa tea at the end of the day.
I think I just spent a good fifteen minutes reacquainting myself with the mechanics of blog post design and updating the family sidebar with everyone’s current ages, and adding one more blessed bundle of joy coming our way soon. One of our neighbors commented last week that she thought Sunshine had grown a whole foot since she’d last seen her, but that seems to be par for the course for all the kids! Trooper has been taller than me for quite some time now, and both Rascal and the Squire decided to pass me up this year alone. Little Bit and Bright Eyes are both so much taller for their ages that Bright Eyes is often thought to be five, and Little Bit, well, even I forgot she is only six and three-quarters! And yes, Pipkka is coming! Her blog nickname comes from a Scandinavian version of her soon-to-be-baptismal name. As bouncy as she has appeared to be in utero, something spritely like Pipkka seems to fit our newest girl.
It took quite a lot of discernment and eventual disillusionment with Instagram, but I decided to cut the cord on the social media and return to what I loved best; telling our story here for whomever chooses to read it. I left Facebook in Lent 2019 and now Instagram in Advent 2020. I do miss seeing updated pictures from our relatives and old college friends, but all the same, the folks I love most did not post as often as the maelstrom of things I needed to see the least. And I tired of being played by all the doom news and panic theories, not to mention the algorithms and ads. I often joked to my sister that I could tell whenever the ads were reset because suddenly Instagram thought I watched horror flicks, or “Outlander,” and I don’t watch either. When I took the break from social media in Advent, I did have a week wondering what on earth I would do with my Internet browsing. Luckily, a few ladies whom I had followed back when blogging was “In” were still blogging, and it was enjoyable actually reading a whole blogpost while I enjoyed my nice cuppa tea in the evenings. Sometimes taking a moment to slowly enjoy one thing is more refreshing than trying to cram in a whole lot of things.
We all have a story to tell. I’m happy retreating to this slow corner of the Internet to relate a bit of ours.
Well, 2021 finds us in the interesting position of guiding teenagers through high-school, navigating middle-school ups and downs, balancing elementary-and-pre-school work, and getting ready to welcome a newborn daughter to the mix. Not to mention Haus Meister is still working from his base in the home office corner of our basement, and hasn’t had to travel in almost a year. That’s been a great perk from this pandemic; he’s never been this long between business trips since we married! We are still managing our micro-farm of chickens, bees, and rabbits, with a new and exciting venture coming ’round the corner in March or April (besides the new baby). I will save that for it’s own blogpost.
I am still working with my sometimes cooperating laptop to enable me to get the pictures from my phone onto this page, and my laptop was only inching along through most of last year before we decided to send it back to Dell for updates and repairs. Fortunately, it’s now creaking along rather than inching.
Also, Haus Meister fixed my sewing machine last October, so I have been happy to have that back in my life again. The girls are beginning to think about Easter dresses (as am I, as a great way to keep busy in these last weeks before Pipkka arrives. The last month is always the hardest for me patience-wise, and that has NOT improved with age). Hopefully, I’ll have more to post about that in the future besides “Hey, I caught up on mending the 642 Princess costumes in the Haus”! This is an exaggeration, of course….
On the farm:
We never ended up frying the rooster. This is probably because we are too tender-hearted, but also because combined efforts from many corners that ended up accidentally culling our poultry stock. We lost some chicks to a toddler’s hug; some grown hens to a hound dog’s over-eager efforts to help herd some free-ranging biddies back into the barn; and sadly, all three ducks plus five hens to a wily raccoon before we finally trapped him. So, since the rooster survived the toddler, the dog, a heat wave, and a raccoon, and as no one has complained about him, he’s still in residence.
Sam, the hound mix, is still guarding Misselthwaite. Bilbo and Oscar (formerly known as Puff-Puff), are still the cats in residence and have actually been ridding us of rats lately, so we are very proud of them. Tabitha, the feral pet stray, hasn’t been seen since the summer, and I fear she is gone for good. Either our cats chased her off or she was finally at the end of her nine lives, but I do miss our nightly food meetings on the back deck.
Rascal added to his rabbitry last June with the purchase of a pedigree Silver Fox rabbit doe now named “Pepper.” She joined “Dottie” and “Mumsy” and the buck “Giles” (all three latter being pedigree American Blues). Soon after she arrived, Rascal went with some of the family back to Tennessee to visit with family, and I had the unusual job of fishing a bunny out of the kudzu jungle behind the rabbit hutch, as Pepper had found an opening in the fence unusable by the fatter, older rabbits. She became an indoor pet for a while, and eventually established herself as the Best Bunny Mama of the lot when she happened to produce ten kits at the very end of December, 2020. Six are gray-blue like Giles and four are black like Pepper. They are so much fun to watch, but I do hope he is able to sell them soon!
On the needles:
I abandoned the sweater project for my mom as wool knitting is never fun in summer in the South, for me, at least. One would think that lockdown would have inspired more knitting time, but instead it, to be honest, led to a lot more doom-scrolling on social media. I did manage to make her a Starshower cowl which I enjoyed making, and she actually received in time for THIS year’s birthday! Once that was done, I whipped up a hat for Pipkka and am now working on a Bobble Sheep Pillow. I’ve been using spare stash yarn for these projects as I have been realizing this year brings me to a full decade of knitting… and I have so much yarn purchased to use… let’s not even start on the fabric stash… anyway…
This will be a new spot on my blog as I recount the ongoing saga of making this property come alive again. Happily, we have come to a point where we are doing more of what we want to do with this place rather than constantly repair the neglect from former owners (though, there’s occasionally that as well). In 2020 we began to renovate part of the master bathroom. We had to pause a bit last summer when the pool liner gave out and the men of the house learned how to install a beautiful new one! The pool never looked better (unless you count when it was installed, but we were raising toddlers and restoring the Old Haus back then). This year we are currently refurbishing the barn for all the fun; Haus Meister has installed a well pump so we can get the rabbits and poultry watered right away without hauling from the house (the barn was the original pump house for the well that used to provide water for the house as well, until it went on city water at some point prior to our arrival). We have also been rearranging the den of the house, taking out a mostly useless built-in entertainment center that was blocking a much-needed window, and putting in a woodstove to replace the propane stove that died this year (and no parts available to fix).
Thanks for reading this far. It is, indeed, very good to be back.