Thursday, October 23, 2014

Forward!

The long-awaited post has arrived; we sold our farm. I waited until it actually closed to post this so I wouldn't curse it somehow, but I deposited the check of funds leftover from the sale today and all the paperwork is signed. The new owner is actually letting us rent our place back from him until December 1st, so we get some time to move slowly. We'll live in my parent's house in Ames while we build our new home.
I'll start posting views of the new place as we build, so here is our "blank slate" as it stands right now. We're basically looking where the front door will be, and we are facing East. Some more pictures taken from the same spot, from north to south:



I know it doesn't look like much right now, but starting next Friday I think we'll have a hole! Then we'll fill the hole with a house. Yes, we are building a house over the winter in Iowa. It's crazy, but I think we've already proved there is a lot of crazy going on here. I think we can get the shell of the house in place before winter really sets in, which means we can make progress over the winter. 
We also have a ton of work to do on fencing, wiring, water, etc. so we had a work day two weeks ago. Wonderful friends helped build fence:
And wire the building:
There is still a long way to go, but it felt good to get so much done. 

We're reaching the point in our farming season where we are taking birds to the locker, getting ready for winter, etc. This is a picture from (chicken) locker day, showing our turkeys and cows hanging out. I actually took it because Ryan is always asking me if I've seen cows, so I was sending him a picture that I had eyes on some cows. Recently they've been challenging fences like crazy, and one bull in particular seems to have lost all respect for electric fence. 

On the quilting front, I did a couple of mug rugs for a United Way fundraiser at work, which turned out well. Mug rugs are kind of fun because they're not very big (these are about 7 inches by 12 inches or so) and they sew up quickly. 
I also finished the quilt top for the one I've been working on, that in my last post I flipped the "sea" on. I got the borders on it during my quilt retreat last weekend.
It's 84 inches by 108 inches, and the border is intended to be the night version of the inside. This picture shows the colors closer than the last one I posted. 

The kids continue to do well, H still likes school and is a hair's breadth from being able to read. Here she is working on a puzzle.

And Z is definitely a toddler, with all the world-exploration tendencies that come with it. Here he checks out the chickens while they were still in the brooder a couple of weeks ago. 
 With that, I'm excited and relieved to finally be moving Forward.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

T-shirt quilt and Camp

Fall is starting to roll in here, and with it beautiful sunsets like the one above. I do like fall, it's such a lovely time of year in Iowa. If only winter didn't follow on its heels!

At our new farm (Ryan is trying to split his time still in order to get some fence built, etc.), the weeds are having a party. They are probably taller than I am and are a mess. Our new farm needs us, but it looks like we're spending another winter of uncertainty where we are as the real estate market winds down. 

I've been getting a little quilting and sewing done, I finished a t-shirt quilt made out of my college engineering t-shirts (it's a gear in a gear. See it?). 

Here's a close up of some quilting:
And I entered it in the state fair. No ribbons, which made me a little sad. It apparently came down to the judges not liking my quilting. They gave the blue, red, and honorable mention ribbons all to quilters who used an all-over quilting pattern, some of them computerized. I'm trying to remind myself that there isn't much of a prize in the fair and not to put too much stock in it. However, I'm also remembering that precision in my free motion quilting does need to be tightened up.
With that in mind, I'm still plugging away at a quilt I intend to enter in shows. I've finished the center, it is supposed to look like sky over a lake. First I had the lake oriented so that it was light at the top and dark at the bottom, like this:
The longer I looked at that, the less I thought it looked like a lake and a sky. I know it depends on the light, and the depth of the lake, and a million different factors as to whether it is light "in the distance" or dark, but I decided it didn't do what I wanted it to do. So I flipped it around and it now looks like this:
I like the line this makes between the lake and sky and think it was the right decision. Now I'm working on borders, which are kind of a night scene version of the center. I'm thinking about the quilting on it now, which originally was going to be inspired by MC Escher's "Three Worlds", but now I'm rethinking. Maybe a big sun on the horizon? hmmm. Taking suggestions.

My last little project was for my MBA Capstone team (our final project before we get the degree), which as I think I've mentioned is doing consulting work for the Friends of the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. As such, I created custom fabric with some symbols of the prairie (monarch butterfly, aster, bison, dickcissel) and "TRR" which is our private name for ourselves, "Team Ramrod". I made some bowties for the guys and some flower pins for the girls. Is this whole thing incredibly geeky? Yes. Is it the geekiest thing I've ever done? Probably not (as people who know me and longtime blog readers will know). 
I think they're awesome and I love them. 

On the family side of things, kids continue to grow. I took my daughter to my childhood camp for the first time (http://www.clearwatercamp.org/) for family camp. It was just her and me for 5 days (including an 11 hour car ride up and back) and it was totally awesome. She did great with the long car ride and completely fell in love with camp. 
The weather was lovely, and she and I had a great time sleeping in a cabin, swimming in the lake, and doing generally camp-related things. It might have been one of the best vacations I've ever had.
Within minutes of getting there she was ready to get wet. Her favorite activity, to my surprise, was actually fishing! She caught two fish. She didn't want to hurt the worm, but got over it quickly. It was catch and release, so we didn't eat this guy, but you can see how excited she is.
I'm looking forward to going back next year, I'm not sure who among our family will go, but I know H and I will be there with bells on.

I'm noticing that most of the pictures I post of Little Z are of him reading a book, holding a book, or being read to. Well, that is certainly my little scholar's favorite activity.

Although sometimes he apparently stops to talk on the phone.

Well, it's late and tomorrow is Monday, so good night all!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Stuck

It's been quiet on this blog because I'm just tired of being optimistic on it. We're still stuck. We're still in Reasnor, still in our house, I'm still commuting an hour to work, we still just have a driveway and a power pole at our new place, and it feels like life is standing still. I can't tell you how many people over the years look at me and say, "Oh, you have a farm? I've always wanted a little farm, but land is just too expensive." What they apparently actually mean is that they want someone to will them a bunch of cropland for free because I have the cheapest land within an hour drive of Des Moines but still no one wants it, even though we are now down to $209,000 for the house and 40 acres (from our original $245,000). My house is small. People also talk about wanting a smaller house; but faced with the reality of a 900 square foot house (with a 400 sq ft sunroom) they suddenly don't want it. I admit I'm tired of cleaning my house up for people who have THREE small children and somehow think that magically a house that is 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and 900 square feet will be the one. 
  It's been a year since I left Vermeer and a job I loved to take this leap of faith that we were supposed to move to Ryan's family farm. Four seasons. One complete school year. It's very discouraging. Yes, our house is small. But it is not a bad house. When a storm blows 70 mph winds across our roof, I roll over and go back to sleep. If a 70 mph wind hasn't taken out our house in 146 years, it's not going to. And I still feel like our space is well appointed; there isn't anywhere that is a silly use of space. But apparently people who walk through it don't see its potential. I know, #FirstWorldProblems, but I guess if you are the praying type or the good universe energy type or (even better) if you know someone who wants to buy a farm a commutable distance to Grinnell, Pella, and Newton and an hour from Des Moines, let me know.

I don't have much quilting news because I've been working on bigger things. I'm working on quilting a t-shirt quilt for the Iowa State Fair, and I'm also steadily working on the first quilt that I am making to be a show quilt. Here's a glimpse as I was auditioning fabric options; I'm feeling good about it.

Ryan and I also got a rare date night early in June, even if it was for one of my MBA classes. We checked out the Concert on the Prairie at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. 

It was a good time, we danced barefoot on the grass.
And of course the kids are growing, because that's what they do.
H had a birthday, for which I made an Elsa dress (from Frozen for the uninitiated).


Then she had a dance recital (she is dressed as a monster)
Wow, dance recital. Not sure if we're doing that again. It was a lot for a four-year-old, and frankly very hard on Ryan to have to bring both kids into town (hour drive again) four days in a week for rehearsals and whatnot. 

She also finished up her school year, here she is at the picnic on the last day. Apparently she and this friend of hers are married. He told his mom so, but somehow H neglected to mention it to me...

Z still loves books of all kinds, and trucks. So a book with a truck in it? Pure gold. 

And that boy also loves the great outdoors. Even though he only says about three words at the age of 1.5 (Uh oh, Thank you, Hi... not even a Mommy yet), he knows to bring us his shoes, his socks, AND our shoes to go outside. 
Here he helps Daddy rake the lawn after a mowing of some very long grass.

Perhaps the next time I blog, we will have a closing date!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring, Barn, and Dye

Spring is beginning to arrive here at the farm! We had a lovely sunset the other day; I just love that moment when the orange sunset lights the hills and makes them glow.

We have not yet sold our farm, I continue to hope we find the right person to buy it. I think someone who wants to raise sheep or cattle like we do or perhaps who wants to grow grapes or have horses would be a good fit. Part of the difficulty is that we don't have a big old farmhouse; it's a well-proportioned space but not large. We have plans for an addition that fixes that; but didn't think it made sense to build that if we were moving. I am very tired of driving an hour each way to work, but I just have to have faith that the right buyer will come along soon.
Here are the cows chewing on a bale right before our weather turned; Ryan was on his semi-annual trip away so he put hay in a bale ring for me so I wouldn't have to haul half a dozen sleds of hay to the cows twice a day.
On the new farm, I took a better picture of our driveway. It's steep, but nowhere near as steep as everyone thought it would be. That's Ryan at the top in the new tractor. We also got our building built at the new place. We're calling it a barn, but it's a modern barn rather than the picturesque type everyone always thinks of.
Under construction:
It's about 50 ft square with the south side open.
Cleary Buildings built it for us, I love the weathervane on top. 
While we checked out the building, we also walked through the old mother-in-law house on the farm to see if we could live in it temporarily while we build our place. 
The answer to that is definitely no. It hasn't been inhabited in 30 years, which might be OK if it didn't have a ton of mold in it. That was disappointing because even though it is much smaller than our house, it would have been a rent-free way to have somewhere to live while we built our new one. 

In crafting news, I've been playing with dyeing recently. Here is my next attempt at ombré, it is a much smoother blend than my last try. I'm dying fabric for a new quilt, which I will share with you when I complete it. 
I also dyed H's flower girl dress from my brother's wedding. This makes it less flower-girl like and very useful for other occasions like my grandfather's 90th birthday party today.
Before:
After:

The kids are growing well, Here H and Ryan plant some seeds for starting in the garden:
And Z gets read to by a good friend of ours. That kid loves books:
And H shows me things in her school open house:
While Z hangs out on the porch in summer sunshine:
Happy spring, everyone!