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Preview: The Farm of Hale

The Farm of Hale

A Venture into the Art of Farming

Updated: 2018-01-22T06:11:00.054-06:00


Clara's 5th Birthday


Today we celebrated Clara turning 5! It is hard for me to believe that my "baby" is five. We have done several fun things over the past few days to celebrate her birthday. We knew the weather was going to be cold and rainy this past weekend, so we asked Clara if we could do some special things as a family instead of having a birthday party with friends and she agreed.The birthday girl with her balloon and birthday trophy.On Saturday we took the girls to see the new Disney movie "Moana." We all really liked the movie. For an extra special treat they got to have popcorn and lemonade.At the movie (with popcorn!)On Sunday we went to the Walton Arts Center to see The Northwest Arkansas Symphony and The Snowman. We went to this show last year too. It is a fun event with good Christmas music by the Symphony, Christmas carol sing-along, The Snowman film, and (fake) snow coming down from the ceiling.With the Symphony Orchestra behind them.On Monday evening we went out to eat with all four grandparents. We let Clara choose what type of food/restaurant she wanted and she chose "sushi"! We went to a Japanese restaurant where the girls used chop sticks and had California rolls, rice, and noodles. Josh and I love Japanese food, so we thought it was great that she chose this.She requested chicken and dumplings for her birthday dinner at home. So I made homemade chicken and dumplings. She also requested a chocolate cake, with white frosting, with strawberries on top, with Sofia on it.Birthday girl with her cake.Some updates on the birthday girl:She loves to sing. She knows lyrics to lots of songs that come on the radio or that we play at home. Almost every song she hears is "her favorite song." If she's not singing real songs, she is making up songs.She is still very much into art projects. Glue, tape, yarn, stickers, markers, little bits of paper--she loves it. She comes home daily from school with some sort of creation. She is in the stage of wanting to know how to spell everything and write out things. We just started working through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We did this same book with Esther. Clara is very anxious to start reading.She is a total farm girl. She loves to be outside. She always wants to help Josh. She is good and opening/closing gates, going to get a tool, helping haul wood, etc. She is still our funny, crazy girl. She is always making faces, talking in funny voices, and saying funny things. She goes for her 5 year old doctor check-up in a few weeks. We will see how tall she is then. I know she is the tallest kid in her class. She can wear Esther's clothes, and her feet are bigger than Esther's . She will also be getting her physical/shots for kindergarten at that doctor's appointment![...]

Vacation #2 - Ohio


This summer we took two vacations (because we are fancy like that). The first one was to Houston. For the second one we went to Ohio to visit Josh's sister, Christy, and her kids. They live in the Cleveland/Akron area. It had been several years since we had been up to visit them, and they recently moved to a new house that we hadn't seen.It is about a 16 hour drive when you count in all the stops. On our way up there we spent the night in St. Louis. The girls do really well in the car. We pack lots of things to color, sticker books, books, and toys. They are old enough now to play games, so we played some "Road Trip Bingo" where they had to find things like a horse, tractor, blue car, gas station, etc.Esther and Clara figured out how to nap in the car!We had a pretty laid back visit. Isabelle and Patrick are teenagers, and Esther and Clara think they are pretty awesome. They liked pestering Patrick, looking through Isabelle's pretty room, and playing with their old toys. And we all had a good time visiting with Christy. We ate most of our meals outside on the porch. It was cooler and no flies and bugs, which was a treat in the middle of the summer. Josh was able to do some home improvement projects for Christy. Josh also spent some time finding beers that they have in Ohio that we don't in Arkansas, he is already making his list for the next time we go back to Ohio! One night the adults went in to downtown Cleveland to eat at Michael Symon's (famous chef?) Lola Bistro . It was nice to eat at a restaurant without kids.Playing with Patrick.Josh fixing some broken areas on Christy's chimney.We were there over the 4th of July so we bought a few fireworks to shoot. Fireworks aren't legal to shoot off in Ohio, and there are only a few stores that sell them. We had to drive a ways to buy them, and they were much more expensive than we are used to.Cousins doing sparklers.FireworksWe visited The Ohio State Reformatory. This is where Shawshank Redemption (and other movies) was filmed. We drove around the town and saw several filming sites for the movie. This old prison was impressive with how big it was and how many prison cells there were. It was fun to see the places from the movie.In front of the Reformatory.One wing of cells. This was several stories high.With "Red"We were in Ohio for our 14th wedding anniversary. We decided to leave the girls with Christy and take a little overnight trip. We went to Kelleys Island, which is in the middle of Lake Erie and a popular vacation spot for people who live up there. We drove about an hour from Christy's then rode on a ferry over to the island. Kelleys Island is small, with not a lot of vehicles, mostly golf carts and bikes. We stayed at a bed and breakfast that had bikes, so we decided to not take our car. I hadn't ridden a bike since I was probably 15, so it was a bit of an adventure! We got caught in a big thunderstorm and had to take cover a few times, but had a lot of fun riding around the island. There are several shops and restaurants. It was nice seeing the sites of the Lake. We visited the Glacial Grooves Park to see the impressions left by glaciers. The girls had a fun time with Christy and Isabelle while we were gone, they went to the Akron Zoo, had a picnic, and went grocery shopping where they convinced Christy to buy things that I won't buy for them :)On the shore of Lake ErieAt the Glacial Grooves.Biking--this was before getting caught in the storm.On our way out of town we went to Lehman's store. It serves the Amish community and has lots of old-timey farm and home supplies. Josh and I could have spent hours there. Josh got an Amish hat, we got a crock-ware pitcher and mug, and we got some foodstuffs. We already have plans to go back next time we are in Ohio.We ended up driving back all in one day. It was a long drive, but we were glad to be back home. It was a great visit and we are planning to go back to Ohio for Thanksgiving (to get more Ohio beer).[...]



I am way delayed on writing Esther's sixth birthday post, but better late than never!Esther turned 6 on July 22. I know it is cliche, but it is hard to believe she is 6. She really is growing up fast. A few milestones this year:Has learned to whistle and snap. She loves to practice these skills!Can tie her shoes.Can ride her bike without training wheels.Lost two teeth, has a couple others that are loose.She still loves to read. She has read all of the Junie B. Jones books and several of the Ramona (Beverly Clearly) books. She is reading on a 2nd-3rd grade level.She loves to draw, color, make books, and create things. She also really likes to build with blocks and tinkertoys. Esther with one of her birthday presents--a little pillow craft she made.She and Clara have grand adventures making mud pies, playing all over the farm, playing school and babies. They also fight a lot :)Esther with the birthday card Clara made for her.Esther loves the cats and dogs. She hugs and kisses the cats and pets them anytime she sees them.Esther giving Jake some pets.This was the first year we did a birthday party of just the kids Esther invited. Now that she has friends from school, we let her choose who she invited, not just our friends and their kids. She invited several of her classmates and a few friends from church. She wanted to have a "Dory" themed party. The kids played outside, petted a goat, saw the pigs, and we played some games. It was incredibly hot, but the kids all had a good time.The birthday party crew.Baby goats are always a hit![...]

Vacation 2016


With Esther in school this year we couldn't do our normal off season beach trip to Navarre Beach. Going during the summer school break made the price double so we decided to do something different. And with the girls getting older we feel like we can do more interesting things that they will enjoy. So, we decided to visit the Houston area and check it out. But first we stopped in Austin and spent a couple of days with our good friends Walt, Annie, Chloe, and Naomi. The four girls (ages 6, 5, 4, and 3) had a great time playing, and the adults had fun just hanging out. We then headed to Houston. We spent an afternoon at the Kemah Boardwalk. We all had fun riding rides even though it was crowded and really hot.This was before the ride started. Once it started Clara's face wasn't so happy!On top of the ferris wheel. The next day we spent at the Johnson Space Center. Our girls have always been interested in space, astronauts, stars, etc., so we thought they would really like it. It was really neat to see inside the space shuttle replica, see and hear about the history of space travel, and play with the interactive exhibits. We toured the facility where the astronauts train and they have life size models of the various shuttles and other training simulators and we also saw one of the huge rockets. The girls had fun seeing all the astronaut things and climbing through the space craft. They also had a special exhibit of MythBusters experiments to try. Josh and I loved that show, so it was fun to play with those exhibits.We went all through the shuttle and the plane that carries the shuttle.In the space shuttlePosing in front of the huge rocketWe then spent a couple of nights in Galveston. We surprised the girls because they didn't know we were going to a beach. Though the beach isn't as nice or as pretty as where we usually go in Navarre, they still had a great time. Galveston sand is much harder to dig in and is more like mud, but Esther and Clara didn't seem to mind. Our beach time got cut a little short due to rain, but we were able to spend lots of time in the swimming pool too. Our last day of vacation we spent at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. There were lots of cool exhibits with taxidermied animals in wilderness scenes, Egyptian mummies, shells, and dinosaur bones. They have a huge exhibit of real and replica dinosaur skeletons which was really neat to see and it walks you through the history of the world through all the dinosaur periods up until man shows up. They also have one of the top planetariums (the astronauts actually train there) so we saw a show there. They have a huge butterfly habitat in a rainforest dome with a waterfall that was lots of fun. The girls liked identifying the butterflies that were flying around. There was also a cool interactive entomology area that the girls enjoyed.You can't see them, but there are lots of butterflies flying around above them.We bought some crunchy larvae to eat. The girls were excited to say they have now eaten bugs. As always, we tried to eat at good restaurants. We had authentic Chinese dim sum at Arco Seafood in the Chinatown area of Houston. I think we were the only non-Asian people in the restaurant and the wait staff did not speak English very well. We ate seafood at several good restaurants. We had an amazing appetizer, campechana, at Goode Co. Seafood. The highlight of food on our trip was lunch at Ninfa's. If you are in Houston, you have to eat there. It was amazing Mexican food. Josh says it is one of the top 5 or 10 meals he has ever had.We had a great trip and did lots of fun things. The girls did really great on the long car rides. And we all survived several nights in one hotel room. Trips with them are getting better/easier as they get older. We had a rough drive home--it rained most of the way, we were on roads we didn't know, and then less than an hour from home we had a flat/near blow-out tire. But we finally made it home safely.[...]



We enrolled Esther in soccer this year. She is so shy and introverted in new situations that getting her to participate in new group activities is usually pretty difficult, especially if she feels pressure to "perform." We really want her to learn get comfortable participating in group settings and soccer is a great introduction. We had a few rough moments at the first practice, but she warmed up and actually participated towards the end. The second practice she participated in everything the coach wanted her to do. Her coach is extremely patient with her and very encouraging, which has helped. Her first game was this past Saturday. Once again, it started off kind of rough, we didn't know if she was actually going to go out on the field and play. She started throwing a little fit and told us she did not want to play but we told her she didn't have a choice. She would not even interact with her team, she just stared at the ground. When the coach put her in we thought she might just stand on the field and not move, but she proved us wrong. She took off running as soon as they kicked the ball to start. She doesn't aggressively pursue the ball, but she does kick it (sometimes) when it is near her. She got to do a kick-off, a corner kick, and she actually made a good defensive stop and kept the other team from scoring once. Her coach was awesome with her and got her involved and having fun.  He got down on her level and talked to her before the game when she was struggling and was encouraging her. After the game he pulled her aside and told her how proud he was of her playing and how well she did.  It really means a lot to have a coach who really cares about the kids.Watching a bunch of 5 year olds play soccer is quite entertaining. They play 3 on 3 with lots of substitutions, and both coaches on the field. They don't keep score (though the parents do) and they don't have too many rules to follow. It is pretty much mass pandemonium. It seems there are one or two players on each team that actually know what they are doing. The rest just run around kicking (sometimes in the wrong goal).After the game Esther told us that she liked playing a lot better than sitting on the side! She did a good job of playing and we are proud of her.Kick-offCorner kick[...]

Spring 2016 Esther and Clara Update


It has been a few months since we posted so I thought I'd give an update on the girls and share some recent pictures. The girls being silly with some beard hats.Esther is a very bright and fun little girl and is becoming more of her own person. She is still doing well in kindergarten. Just a couple of months until we will have a kindergarten graduate! She has several good friends and she recently attended her first "real" birthday party of one of her classmates.  She loves to read and is reading on about a 2nd-3rd grade level. She loves the Junie B. Jones book series and has read dozens of them. She still loves to draw, color, and do anything art related. Now that she is pretty good at spelling and writing sentences she writes some impressive (to us) books. Esther has also recently started soccer, so we will see how that goes. She tends to be really shy in new situations with people she does not know. We are hoping she has fun participating in a group sport.Esther being silly at a birthday party.Esther caught this baby goat.Clara is still a mess! She is a very sweet girl who loves to help, and she is crazy and silly. She makes us laugh all the time. She is fearless and is not afraid to try things. She too loves art--especially if it involves glue, tape, and tiny bits of paper. She really likes music and singing. She is always singing a song, sometimes real songs, sometimes made up.Clara with one of the baby goats.They both love to play outside and be with all of our animals. They really like the baby goats. Esther is pretty good at catching them, though they are getting too big for them to pick up. Clara loves to help Josh in whatever he is doing. She opens gates, carries and stacks wood, and runs to get things. They both help do chores, both inside and out.The girls putting compost on our fruit trees.We are all enjoying the spring weather. We flew a kite for the first time this past weekend.Building with sticks out in the pastureThey are fun kids and we are enjoying getting to more activities and go more places as they get older. In the past few months we have taken them to their first movie in a theater and their first shows at the Walton Arts center, We have been having some of their friends over fore movie nights which is always fun. We also spent the weekend in Branson with some friends a few weeks ago. Next week is our first spring break with a kid in school so we have some fun activities planned.First movie in a theater - "The Good Dinosaur"They got some snazzy hats in Branson.We stayed at a hotel with an indoor water park in Branson.First show at the Walton Arts Center - "The Snowman"Movie night with friends at our houseWe will leave you with a video of the girls band.  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">[...]

New Room


One of the things we knew we wanted to do when we bought this house 2.5 years ago is to enclose the garage into living space. It had a one car garage, total space was 20'x20' but the parking area was smaller than that. I appreciate garages as much as anyone but it seems like every house we have had one, we hardly ever use it (mostly because they have been small garages) When we decided to buy this house we knew we wanted to expand the house and we knew we wanted a bigger living room. When I was in high school, the house I spent most of my time hanging out had a game room that had been converted from a garage. It was the perfect hang out room because it was somewhat separate from the rest of the house and you could have separate hang out areas.  And you could shut the doors for privacy and not disturb the people in the rest of house by being loud.  So, it has always been in my head as a possibility when looking at houses to buy.Our house had a garage perfect for converting. So in the fall, I started working on a garage conversion. It took a while and was a whole lot of work. The conversion included taking down the garage door and building a wall in it's place. Adding an additional interior door, adding two new windows, doing all new wiring, new insulation, new sheet rock and paint, new carpet, new duct work for heat and air. We also bought new furniture and I built some new furniture.The main purpose we wanted this room to serve is a media room to watch movies.  I love watching movies and I wanted a room that was set up for doing this. I ran speaker wire for 5.1 sound and structured the new room around this purpose. I put in recessed lights with dimmers which is really nice. I also put in solid core interior doors and insulated the interior walls so you could close off the room and really keep the majority of the sound in that room.  We were able to put a wood stove in the new room to help with heating and because we like having a wood stove. We also wanted a place for a piano for Margo and for the girls in the future. So we now have the new room and we still have our old smaller living room which is now more of a sitting room area.  I can not tell you how awesome it is to have this room. I have never been so happy and excited about something house related. It is so nice to have a two areas to hang out when friends are over. We can put a movie on for the kids in the room and the adults can hang out in the other living area and play games or talk without getting disturbed. And Margo and I can put on a movie after the girls go to bed, shut the doors, and crank it up, and not disturb them. It is going to be great to have as the girls get older and have friends over. It makes me very very happy.Outside view before remodelDuring remodel.  I had to add concrete where there was a tray in the floor for the garage door.After: I put in two windows. Unfortunately they don't sell 1980's baby blue siding anymore so I had to buy white siding and get paint color matched to the old siding and paint it. i think it turned out pretty good.Inside the house before adding new interior door.New interior door.  We now have two doors from the new room into the house. The original goes into the laundry room and this new one goes into the main part of the house.BeforeAfterBeforeAfter:  I used hardie plank exterior siding and painted it for behind the wood stove.Margo let me buy a big new 4K TV. I built a new TV console for all our media. One of the main things I wanted it to do besides hold the TV is to hold our records and record player so they were easy to play.[...]

Clara turns 4!


Today is Clara's 4th birthday. I don't know how she can be four, it seems like she was just born. She keeps us entertained and on our toes. She is wild and  funny, you never know what she is going to say or what crazy face she is going to make. We are always laughing when she is around and it makes it very hard to discipline her when she is making you laugh at the same time.Some updates on Clara:She loves to color, draw, make art projects, and cut lots of tiny pieces of paper.She loves to sing. She knows the words to lots of songs from school and church. She also makes up songs, so she is always singing. We recently got a piano, so she likes for me to play songs and she sings along. She is a true farm girl. She loves to be outside, playing and exploring. When there is a choice of what to do she almost always chooses to go outside and play. If there is dirt or water, she will find it.She knows all her letters and numbers. She likes to write things, so is constantly asking us how to spell things. She loves school and her teachers love her. She loves to help and is eager to learn.She is still big for her age which has always been the case since she was born.  She is now wearing the same size shoe as Esther and can wear her clothes. It won't be long before she passes Esther in size. We celebrated her birthday yesterday with a few friends. It was a nice day, so the kids were able to play outside and see the animals. Clara requested chocolate and vanilla swirl cake, with white icing and Dora decorations.Today we celebrated by taking the girls to a performance at the Walton Arts Center. The Symphony of Northwest Arkansas had a family performance where they played some Christmas music. Then they played the film The Snowman, and the symphony played the score to the film. They love the book and have seen the film before, and Clara has been learning about instruments at school, so it was a great opportunity to introduce the girls to the theatre/symphony. We all enjoyed it.Clara has requested homemade "chicklin" (chicken) and dumplings, corn off the cob, and black beans for her birthday supper!  This makes Josh happy because chicken and dumplings has always been his favorite and his request on his birthdays, and it is something his grandmothers always made for him growing up because of how much he loved it.[...]



About a month into school Esther came home with a note from the school nurse saying she had failed part of her eye exam and needed to see an eye doctor. We were quite surprised by this, as we have never noticed any problems with her vision. We thought maybe Esther just wasn't being cooperative with the eye exam. We made an appointment with an eye doctor and expected everything to check out just fine. Esther is not a very compliant patient, so the appointment was interesting. The results are that one of her eyes is "lazy" and does not see things well at a distance. Her other eye has compensated, which is why we haven't noticed any problems. So she needed glasses which was kind of a shock. Before we got them, Esther said she did not want to look different with glasses. We asked her what she meant and she said she did not want her looks to change which was kind of sad to hear. But we explained how much they would help her and we let her pick them out and she mostly went with it. The doctor is hopeful that her brain will respond and start using that eye more and maybe not have to wear them forever. Her prescription in the one eye ended up being quite strong. The first day she said "things look so huge!" The first couple of days were a bit tough getting her used to wearing them but we are all getting used to them and I think Esther sees the benefit in wearing them. After just a couple weeks of wearing her glasses they have become a normal part of her looks and now she looks different to us without them.

Fall Fun


It has been a while since we posted. We've been busy with a big project (post about that coming soon). Here is a recap of some of our family fun from the past couple of months.We made our yearly trip to the Washington County Fair. Josh won admission and ride tickets through a local contest, so we rode more rides than usual. We all love seeing the animals and riding rides.At the top of the ferris wheelRiding the carouselOver the long Labor Day weekend we went to Austin, TX to visit our friends Walt and Annie. They recently moved to Austin from Germany. We are glad they are much closer now! Their girls are 5 and 2, so Esther and Clara had a great time playing with them. We ate some good food, went swimming, went downtown and saw the bats fly out, and just spent some good time hanging out. We hope to make it back sometime soon to see/do more of the "Austin" attractions.Hard to see them, but there are a bunch of bats flying in the airNaomi, Chloe, Clara, and EstherIn October we went to Mena (Josh's hometown) for the weekend. We stayed with our friends Steve and Kathy (the site of the infamous scooter accident). We took the girls to Queen Wilhelmina State Park. They have recently redone the Lodge, so we wanted to see that. They have a little train that goes around the park and an old train engine that you can climb on. Those are childhood memories of Josh's that we wanted the girls to experience. There is also an old fire tower near the Park that we went up in.Riding the trainOn top of the fire towerFor Halloween we asked the girls what they wanted to dress up as. We were talking about unique and funny costumes and Clara came up with "a box of tissues." Esther decided that is what she wanted to be, and we came up with an Etch a sketch for Clara. Josh and I crafted their costumes and they were a big hit. We once again went to the Fayetteville Square for their Trick or Treat event. We also went trick or treating with some of our friends. The girls sprinted from house to house. When we got back to our friends' house they spent the rest of the evening handing out candy to trick or treaters. I think they enjoyed that almost as much.[...]

School days


When you have a baby (or adopt one) school seems like a very far off thing. And then all of the sudden it is time to start Kindergarten and your like.... what the heck just happened.  And then you get all nervous and emotional about it and worry about if they are going to be ok. Then they start and it seems like no big deal.  It is kind of a roller coaster of emotions raising kids.So,Esther started kindergarten 3 weeks ago, just like that. As far as we can tell Esther is loving it and is doing well. We worry about her because she is not super outgoing and does not like to talk very much (except around us). So we are worried that she won't ask for help when she needs it or she won't find friends easily. In fact that is the thing I pray for and hope for most, is that she will find good friends. I think that may be one of the most important things to a happy and fulfilling life is good friends that are a good influence.  One thing we are not worried about is her doing good in school and being a good student.  She is very smart and very well behaved.Most days we get spotty details of what happens throughout the day. Here are some of the highlights:She loves riding the bus. There was no hesitation the first day (even though we were worried about it). One day she said she even rode at the very back of the bus. The downside of the bus is she gets on at about 6:55 every morning. Clara also loves to walk with us for Esther to catch the bus and to pick her up at the end of the day at the end of the driveway. She gets chocolate and strawberry milk. On the first day of school when we asked her what her favorite thing was she exclaimed "I had chocolate milk 3 times today!!" (Breakfast, lunch, and after school program snack) Up until that day she had only had chocolate milk 2-3 times in her life. We now encourage her to choose white milk at least once a day.She also gets bubblegum as a reward (something she had never had before). As a reward for good behavior and following the class rules, her teacher gives a penny for students to get a gumball out of a gumball machine. She got her first penny the second day of school (very proud parents) and knew she was not allowed to have gum previously so she brought her penny home instead of getting gum (very, very proud parents). We told it was ok for her to have gum (we had just never rewarded the girls with candy) Since Esther is quiet, keeps her hands to herself, and always listens to the teacher she has gotten quite a bit of gum.She likes the extra classes they do weekly--Art, Music, PE, Health, Library, and Computer LabSo far in class they have just been working on writing letters and numbers, learning about shapes and colors. All of that is a review for Esther since she knew those things when she was 2-3 years old. But she says she loves doing the worksheets.We hope she continues to enjoy school. We have Parent/Teacher Conferences in a couple of weeks. We are very interested to hear her teacher's perspective.         [...]

Summer Farm and Garden Update


It has been a while since we have talked about the farm on the ol' blog. It is not because stuff has not been happening, blogging just seems to get forgotten at times. The garden has done pretty well this year. It has been a weird year with lots of rain and lots of hot temperatures. Some things have done great (especially the weeds) and some things not so great. Being our second year in this place, our berry production has really ramped up. We had tons of strawberries this year. We froze 6-7 gallons and sold some too. We also had a lot of them rot because of so much rain early on in the year. We also had lots of raspberries this year to eat fresh and we froze 2-3 gallons. We had mulberries as well from our mulberry tree. Our blackberries produced tons also. We froze 3 gallons of those and sold gallons also. We were also able to make 10 pints of mixed berry jelly.The garden has been a love/hate thing this year. Weeds have been out of control with all the rain and heat, I could barely keep up with pulling them. Some of our early veggies did not do so well like onions and potatoes but the later veggies have done much better. This was the second year for our asparagus bed and we were able to get quite a bit from it and it will only get better in the future. We have been doing tons of canning the past month or so but that is starting to wind down. We canned 12 pints of pickled peppers, 20 pints of salsa, 35 pints of spaghetti sauce, 10 pints of tomato sauce, 15 half pints of hot sauce, and 30 pints of green beans. Our corn struggled a little this year but we were able to freeze 100 ears of corn. We also had lots of fresh squash, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, okra, spinach, radishes, bok choi, cabbage, broccoli, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers. We should be able to harvest sweet potatoes soon as well. I have been planting some of my fall garden and some of it is already up and growing...winter squash, more summer squash and cucumbers, and more corn. When we moved into this new place I increased the size of my garden from our previous location by about 50%.  I have come to the conclusion that this is too much and requires too much of my time to keep up with it.  I am planning to reorganize during the winter and downsize a little bit. I don't want to be spending so much time in the garden and farm that it takes away too much time from more important things like doing other things with the family.The animal part of the farm has been doing great so far this year and is growing. We had several baby goats and sheep born which have mostly been sold now. We bought 10 new weaned Holstein steers to raise through the year and sell this winter.We also decided to try pigs this year so we got two young ones in the spring. We had never done them before and were not sure what to expect.  But they have actually been pretty easy to deal with and not caused any real problems or anything. We plan to take one to the butcher in a month or so and sell the other one. I think we may continue to do some every year in the future.And the biggest news on the livestock front is we were finally able to buy some young heifers to start our real cow herd. They will be ready to breed later this winter so I will need to get a bull for them. Then we can start having our own calves and hopefully grow our herd to maximize the use of our land.Since we have not built up enough animals yet to eat all our grass on the farm we had our hay cut this year again. We were actually able to get two cuttings this year since we had good rain. A neighbor cuts it for us and we split the hay with him. Total, we got 32 round bales the first cutting and 300 square bales along with 11 round bales the second cutting.  Our part of that should take c[...]

The big 5!!!!!!


Today is Esther's 5th birthday! I know I say this every birthday, but the time has gone so fast. It seems like we just brought her home. She is such a smart, sweet, and fun little girl. She is introverted, shy, extremely independent and stubborn. Getting her to comply with a request is sometimes quite challenging. But she is a really great kid and we are proud to be her parents.

Some of her favorite activities:
  • Drawing, coloring, creating artwork. She brings home a stack of artwork everyday from school and she is always drawing and coloring at home. We think she is really good and are quite impressed with some of her drawings. She has started writing and illustrating some little books. It is so fun to see her imagination.
  • She loves to read. She has progressed really well since she learned to read last summer. She is reading books on a 1st-2nd grade level. At nap time and bedtime she sits on her bed and reads books until she falls asleep. She loves to read and look at books, but she hates to read for other people. She will read for Josh and I, but won't do it for anyone else.
  • Playing dress up and make believe. Her and Clara are always dressed up, playing with their babies, playing school, and pretending to have restaurant or a store.
  • We spend a lot of time outside and her and Clara have lots of adventures. They do lots of digging in the dirt, riding bikes, drawing with sidewalk chalk, and playing in their playhouse. She loves our cats and dogs and is always hugging on them. Feeding the cats is one of her chores. 
We had a little birthday party for her this weekend. We let her decide all the details including who she wanted to invite. She wanted an afternoon party with cake and homemade ice cream. She wanted a Frozen cake and wanted it to be blue with white icing. She wanted hats and blowers. After cake and ice cream we went to the pool to swim. Several friends and some family were able to join us and she had lots of fun. Here is a little video collage of her birthday party. She was feeling shy and didn't like us singing to her and didn't want to blow out her candles.

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She starts kindergarten in less than a month. We are excited and a little bit nervous to see how she does at school. We know she is ready. 

Little Swimmers


Last year the girls' swimming lessons were ok, but we knew we wanted to put the girls in swimming lessons again this year. Esther is more tentative in the water, so we knew she really needed some more personalized attention to actually make her try to swim. And we knew Clara could probably progress a lot with some good instruction. So when a friend of mine was offering semi-private swimming lessons we knew that it would be great for the girls.

The first day Esther didn't even want to get her face wet (while Clara was dunking herself), but by the end of the first lesson she was willingly putting her whole head under water. That alone was worth the price of private lessons! They both did really great. The practiced going under water, bobbing, floating, kicking, and paddling. They loved it and had so much fun. 

By the end of the lessons they were both swimming. Esther will swim short distances. Clara is a little fish and can swim across the pool. Clara would also jump in to the pool and then swim back to the side all by herself.

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 We are looking forward to going to the pool often this summer so the girls can keep practicing. 

Vacation 2015


I wanted to capture an overview of our vacation before I forget about it. We went to Navarre Beach, Florida for the third year in a row. You can read about our 2013 and 2014 vacations. We once again went the week before Memorial Day. It is cheaper and less crowded to go then. With Esther starting school in August, our future vacations will have to be later in the summer.On our way down to Florida we stopped in Little Rock to visit the dinosaur exhibit at the Clinton Library. The girls love to play with dinosaurs so we thought they'd love it. Esther was a bit scared at first, but once we convinced her the dinos weren't real and weren't trying to eat us she was ok. It was a fun exhibit with big, moving, roaring dinosaurs.T-Rex, notice Esther's tight grip on daddy.Our beach vacation was pretty similar to the past two years. Beach, naps, beach, pool, eating lots of seafood. The beach is a great vacation for the girls while they are young. They are happy to play in the sand for hours. They were braver this year and went out in the waves with me. They had their floaties on and would "ride the waves." They were both a lot more confident in the pool this year too. With their floaties they "swam" all around the pool. Clara loved to jump in to the pool over and over. Esther was happy doing synchronized swimming/dance moves on the stairs!The Gulf Coast National Seashore is just a few miles from our condo. We like to go down there because we usually have the beach to ourselves and the sand is really soft. Clara loved to get buried.We went to Fort Pickens one morning. Josh and I really like historical sites and museums, so we are glad the girls are getting old enough to visit some things. They enjoyed exploring the old fort.Family selfie at Fort PickensEsther and Clara at Fort PickensAdd captionJosh likes to look for shells, but unfortunately this year there were hardly any shells. There had been a bad storm the day before we arrived. The water was really rough the first day and the currents were strong. The last day we were there the water was filled with a thick green algae/seaweed. It was really gross and we didn't get in the water that day. The shells were lacking, but Josh did find a live starfish and a crab. The girls loved seeing those things.                                [...]

First Graduation


"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."  Ferris BuellerIt always drives me crazy when people say enjoy your kids because time flies and next thing you know they will be gone, because in day to day life time seems to drag on. But then all the sudden the little baby you swear you just brought home the other day is graduating Pre-K.  And in a couple months she will turn 5 and start kindergarten. Last Friday was Esther's Pre-K graduation.  I don't get to exited about those kinds of things because it seems like they do those kinds of things all the time with kids these days.  I think it is more for the parents most of the time than the kids and this parent isn't really in to it. We were also taking bets on whether Esther would actually go up there and participate because you see Esther is kind of like her father and is not into those kinds of things either. But she did go up on stage and wear a cap and gown but she did not sing the songs.  Overall it turned out to be pretty fun.  The kids sang a couple songs and when they walked across the stage they gave the kids' answers to questions about themselves....Esther' favorite color is pink and purple, she wants to be a doctor when she grows up, and at school she enjoys coloring. Both sets of the grandparents came which was fun also.Esther is growing up fast and it seems to go faster the older she gets.  She is definitely a little girl now and has her own distinct personality. She is a daddy's girl.  She is really fun to be around (most of the time) and is very bright. However she is not into performing for people or being put in new and different situations. We always kind of joke when Esther talks or interacts with someone she doesn't know well and tell them how special they must be that she actually interacted with them. She is very contemplative and likes to know what she is doing before she does something.  We always try to explain everything to her so their are no surprises.  She is very head strong and things have to be her idea if she is going to do them, so we never know if she is going to choose to do something or not.She and Clara are the best of buddies (and also fight like crazy). It is fun to see them playing together.  Esther loves to draw and color and is really good at it.  She also loves to read and is an amazing reader for her age. Most of the time she would rather read than do anything else and always wants to be read to. She is currently reading on about a 2nd grade level which is crazy. It still shocks us when she reads the menu at a restaurant, signs on the road, or things at the store. She is ready for kindergarten, and we are excited to see how much she'll grow and learn.[...]

Water Collecting


One of my goals for our farm is to collect rain water which in turn conserves water by not using "city" water. Part of the reason I chose the locations for our garden and orchard is the proximity to buildings. I hoped to collect the water off the roofs to use for watering. I finally got around to getting my system up for the garden and finished it this past week just in time for this week's rain.I started my water collection last year with collecting water off of our chicken coop to use for watering the chickens. You can read about that here. I put it in last May and never had to water the chickens again until we started having freezing temperatures. Unfortunately one night I forgot to empty the nipple water line in the winter and the pvc pipe froze and burst. But it worked out ok because I got to rethink my chicken waterer and try something new. The nipple waters worked fine but a lot of water was wasted by the chickens because they did not catch it all when getting a drink and therefore it kept the ground constantly wet under the water line. This time I decided to go with a pan type waterer that uses a float system to keep the bowl full. I was able to connect it to my existing 55 gallon barrel set up. So far it is working great and I like it much better than the nipple waterers.For my garden water collection, I am collecting water off of my shop roof which borders the garden. It is a really big roof so it will collect a lot of water which will be great for watering my garden. I decided to go with IBC containers because they are relatively cheap and easy to find. I bought two 275 gallon containers so I would have 550 gallons total. I read lots of posts online about different set ups and watched lots of videos until I had an idea of how I wanted to set it up.  Unfortunately the shop roof line comes down kind of low so I was not able to do it exactly like I wanted but I was still able to make it work. I had hoped to raise the containers up to increase the water pressure but was only able to raise them 18-20 inches. I had to build really sturdy supports because that much water weighs over 2 tons. I connected the two containers with PVC pipes and then have an outlet that I can hook up my water hose to. I decided to cover the containers in black plastic to prevent algae growth. And I have it so when the containers are full and I can switch the pipe to have the water empty out into the pasture instead of just overflowing right next to the building. I plan to eventually have this run in to a livestock water trough. Our first rain since I finished the set up was last night and we got 1.5 inches which was enough to fill them up.  I was really happy that it worked out. I hooked up the water hose and there is enough pressure to push the water out of the nozzle on the setting we use for gentle watering.  I hope to set up another system like this one sometime to use for watering our fruit trees.Here is what it looks like. It is not pretty but luckily it is behind the shop.I connected the two containers with a pvc pipe that connects to their outlets. The gutter only empties into one container but both of them will fill together having them hooked up this way. Here is my outlet hooked up to the water hose[...]

Biggest Farm Project....Done


The biggest and most expensive farm project on all the farms I have had (3 if you are keeping count) is fencing.  Our first place in West Fork did not have fence and I had to put in everything from scratch. Our last place and our current place both had fencing but not in good shape and not good enough to hold goats and sheep.  This is our biggest farm so that means a lot more fencing.  By my calculations I put in about 6,000 feet of fence including perimeter fence, yard fence, and cross fences.  I have been working on fence off and on since we moved in but have really been working on it hard this winter.
Our current farm was completely fenced but some of it was in bad shape or just piecemealed together, A lot of the fence was leaning over really badly also. For the most part it was just several strands of barbwire which would not keep in goats (goats are notorious for escaping).  The type of fence I need is field fence with a strand of barb wire on top.
One good thing was part of the yard fence and some of the corner posts were steel tube so I could use them. And I was able to reuse all the steel t-posts.  But I still had to dig and put in a lot of big posts for corner and stretch posts. About half the fence I was able to straighten up the posts without taking them out of the ground and then I just put the field fence right on top of the existing barb wire.  The other half of the fence I had to completely take down and pull up the t-posts before putting up the new fence. Around the barns there were to many different paddocks with fences fencing in fences it seemed like so I re-organized them. I also moved around the yard fence a little bit. 
I am really happy to have it done. It was a long, hard project. I can now put any of our animals on any part of our land without worrying about them getting out. I am also happy that I can move on to other projects that I enjoy more and are not so daunting.

We learned our kid to read


I never liked the parents who always talked like their kid was the best, or smartest, etc. I always said I would never be like that and not be an annoying parent who thought their kid was the best. Then we got Esther and as she got grew older we realized that she actually was the smartest girl in the world.  Just kidding.  However she has always been very advanced and bright for her age. This is not just our grandiose parent-skewed thoughts but teachers and other have told us this as well.  And the fact that she was meeting milestones one to two years ahead of her age. She knew her numbers, letters, colors, etc by the time she was 2 years old and was writing her name and lots of letters by 3. She has always loved to be read to and since she was a baby she would sit still and quiet for as long as you would read to her. All you needed to keep Esther happy as a baby/toddler were books. A lot of time you would just find her sitting somewhere looking at books. This past year she has shown a lot more interest in knowing how to spell words and wanting us to tell us what words were in books.  She has a great memory and would memorize them a lot of times.
We decided after her 4th birthday in July that she might be ready to learn how to read, she seemed to be meeting all the prerequisites.  A lot of people recommended the book, Teach your kid to read in 100 easy lessons, so we decided to give it a try.  I would love to say that it was so easy and went so smoothly but that is not the case.  I found out really fast that teaching something like reading (especially to a 4 year old) is not easy. And teaching reading the english language makes it even harder, I did not realize how crazy our language is until this. But we stuck with it even though we wanted to give up a few times.  And Esther did well with it and caught on pretty quickly. She is very stubborn though and sometimes she would just refuse to do a lesson.  But we persevered.
 I am happy to report that we finished the lessons last week. Esther is officially now reading.  She is on a beginner level but she can read basic stories.  We got her some of those beginner reader books and she can read them with only needing a little help with some words she does not know. But she does good at sounding out words she doesn't know. We always try to define new words for her to help grow her vocabulary. Being young she struggles a little with comprehending what she is reading while she is reading it so we always try to quiz her about it and try to get her to tell someone else the story that she just read.
Needless to say, we are very proud of her. We think she is pretty bright for a 4.5 year old. We know how vital reading and enjoying to read are to her future and are happy she is able to start so early.

Clara is 3!


Today is Clara's 3rd birthday. I know I say this on every birthday, but I really can't believe she is 3. The time has flown by and I can't believe I don't have a baby anymore. A few highlights about Clara:She knows all of her upper and lowercase letters, numbers, colors, shapes. She is getting better at counting out objects and can write about half of the letters. Practicing her writingShe loves to draw, color, and cut paper with scissors. Some of her drawings actually look like things now. Clara and the dinosaur she drewShe has a great imagination and loves playing with her dolls, play kitchen, and building things with blocks. Clara all dressed upThe girl loves to make a mess. If there is dirt, water, or anything messy she will find it. I can't keep liquid soap in the bathroom because she dumps it out to make bubbles in the sink.She is really funny and always keeps us laughing with her antics. She is always singing and dancing. She makes up songs and never just walks somewhere. She talks in silly voices and will do anything to get a laugh.She is very social and extroverted. If anyone comes to our house, Clara runs out to greet them. For months she has been saying that she was going to have a rainbow cake and chocolate milk for her birthday. She also requested hats and blowers. This morning we took the girls for donuts and chocolate milk, a major treat in our house. We also made her a tye-dye/rainbow cake. With her birthday donut[...]

Halloween of Hale


We had a fun time celebrating Halloween with the girls this year. The weekend before Halloween we hosted a get together at our house for lots of our friends and their kids. We carved pumpkins, roasted pumpkin seeds, ate chili, went on a hayride, and made smores. It was in the mid-80s, so it felt like a summer day, but we carried on with our chili, cornbread, and pumpkin desserts.Pumpkin carvingScooping out the gutsAll the pumpkin creationsFirst Farm of Hale HayrideWe carved another pumpkin with the girls. They loved getting out all the gook. They could play with the slimey insides for hours. They really like to see the pumpkins all lit up.This year for trick or treating they went as a chicken and a monster which was really cute, and they both really liked them. First we went to the Fayetteville Square and trick-or-treated there on Friday afternoon. We then met up with some of our friends for dinner and trick-or-treated in a neighborhood. Esther and Clara sprinted from house to house and had lots of fun. They loved trick-or-treating!Chicken and MonsterWalking to the Fayetteville Square, ready for candy.Trick or treating[...]

Pumpkin Patch


This weekend we went to a local pumpkin patch. The girls loved pulling the wagon, walking through the patch, and picking out pumpkins. We hope to carve a couple of them this weekend.

They are growing up so much. They are little girls, not toddlers anymore. Here they are last year at the pumpkin patch. 

And this was Clara in 2012. For some reason I don't have Esther in a picture at the pumpkin patch.

Farm Bounty


Our big summer garden has been mostly "done" for a while. We had a  few first year garden issues, but overall the garden produced well for us. We had a mild summer, which helped. In addition to eating a lot of fresh veggies in the summer, we sell some, give some away, and then can/freeze/store a lot to use throughout the year. We have recently starting harvesting some of our fall garden produce also. The garden should be better next year and years to come as we get the soil in better shape over time.We canned about 20 quarts and 30 pint jars of green beans, 30 pints of spaghetti sauce, 30 pints of salsa, 10 jars of hot sauce, 10 jars of plain tomato sauce, and 10 jars of pickled peppers. We also froze about 40 packages of corn, some on the cob and some off. And we froze some summer squash to use in soups and stews this winter.Green beans, spaghetti sauce, pickled peppersSalsaWe didn't weigh them, but we also harvested some potatoes (about 2 milk crates worth). Red, white, and purple ones. We also have been harvesting sweet potatoes recently (at least a milk crate full).We planted a bunch of winter squash, but the squash bugs killed it before we were able to harvest much. We did get a few butternut squash before the vines died.The butternuts that made it to harvest.We recently discovered two apple trees in front of our rental trailer. Our tenants used and gave away a lot of them, but we were able to harvest a few gallons of apples. Josh made 6 jars of applesauce from them. We can't wait until our fruit trees and berries are producing so we can preserve more fruit for the year.ApplesauceWe also had a steer butchered a couple of months ago. We split it with Josh's parents, so we have a couple of hundred pounds of beef in the freezer too.Beef and cornFor our first year on this farm we feel like we did pretty well on producing food for ourselves. We hope to do better in future years. We are hoping to add pigs, butcher chickens, and turkey as early as next year. We also hope to increase the amount of food we sell in the future also. It is nice to have fresh produce and to know where you food comes from.[...]

Chicken Waterer


There are a few things that define my farming style.  Two of the main ones are practicality and creating less work for myself. Practicality- I am much more into things being useful and serving a purpose than looking good.  That is why you don't see a lot of flowers around my house. I would much rather spend my time on plants I can eat than ones I can just look at. The other big thing is doing as a little work as I have to.  Farms are a lot of work and I always have something to do.  So anything I can do to create less work for myself is good.One of the things I have recently done to create less work is to build a chicken waterer that will hold more water so we have to water the chickens less often. Margo mostly does the watering and feeding of the chickens so keeping her happy by her doing less work is good too. Several years ago I built a chicken feeder so that we did not have to feed them every few days. I posted it about it here if you want to check it out. I have made a few alterations to it since then.  We usually put 150lbs or so of feed in there which means we only have to fill up the feeder about once a month or so (for 25-30 chickens). At our last two houses we had ponds relatively close to the chicken coop so the chickens would get a lot of their water from there and we did not have to fill up the waterer in their coop very often. At our current house, the pond is a long ways off and so we were having to fill up our 5 gallon waterer almost every day.  Margo was not a fan of that and it was bad for when we had to be gone for several days.  So I started to do some research on ways to make bigger chicken waters (that don't use "city water").  I found some good ideas using nipple waters and used those ideas to create my set-up.  I ended up putting up some old gutters on my chicken coop and ran those into a 55 gallon plastic drum that is on a stand.  I have pvc coming out of that which goes into the chicken run. I then hooked a long section of pvc to that  and screwed in nipple waterers to that.  For my chicken coop roof (16x9) it takes about 1/2 inch of rain to fill up the barrel. We have had it for 2-3 months and the rains have kept it full. It only took the chickens a couple days to get used to it.  I would probably design it a little different if I did it again but so far it is doing great. As you can see I hooked the gutter directly into the barrel, I used some wire mesh as a screen to keep out debris so it would not stop up the pipe or nipple waterers.  I have the pvc coming out of the bottom.  One of the caps on a drum like this has threads for a pipe hookup so I just used that to screw in the pvc in to. Here is a chicken drinking from it.  You are supposed to mount it so the chickens have to reach up to the nipples. It helps them waste less water.  But it seems like there is still quite a bit that gets wasted. [...]

Pontoon Playhouse


I wrote a blog post late last year about a pontoon boat we found in the woods after we bought our house that I decided to make a playhouse out of.  We moved it during the Thanksgiving holiday last year using a tractor and truck as evidenced in this video. I finally got around to working on it this spring and finished it prior to 4th on the Farm this year which was my goal.  I still have a few things I want to add but the main part of it is done.  I am planning to make an upper deck lookout when the girls get a little older and I would like to add some musical components. I am pretty happy with how it turned out and it seems to be a big hit with our girls and all the other kids that have come to our house. It is funny how all this worked out with having a random pontoon boat and repurposing it into a playhouse. Several years ago, before we moved here, I had told Margo I really wanted to build our kids an interesting playground out of recycled stuff. I didn't want just a normal kit playground you buy at the store but wanted them to have something really cool, interesting, and almost artsy. Part of this idea stemmed from spending time at City Museum in St. Louis (which is one of the coolest places I have ever been) and from an episode of American Pickers where a guy had made a really cool building from recycled junk. I wanted my kids to have the coolest playset around. Fast forward a few years and I think I came pretty close. Even though it is not exactly what I had in mind when I originally thought of what a recycled/repurposed playset would be, it is really interesting and cool (not sure about artsy). Here it is in the woods where we found itHere it is getting put in place for being a playset.This is after I had dismantled it and was working on removing the old decking.This is after adding new decking and putting it back together. I framed the enclosed area, added windows, and was working on putting together the enclosed part and the swing arm. Here it is finishedFront viewBack and other side view.  It has two slides.Deck view. I got the girls a couple adirondack chairs and built them a table and stools for inside.Here are the girls enjoying the swings. Esther has recently learned to do flips on the trapeze bar. Enjoying the old boat swivel chairs I attached to the front.  Kids enjoying it during 4th on the FarmMore 4th on the Farm fun.[...]