Monday, August 31, 2009

Beach Trip!

We had been looking forward to our short beach trip all month long. It was our very first overnight "family vacation" in over two years. We hadn't been able to leave overnight because we always need to be home for the morning and evening milkings. We are so thankful for our farm helpers, Hannah and Landon, and their willingness to stay at the farm and do three milkings for us so we could leave for a long-awaited time of family fun and refreshment!
Even though we were only going a few hours away to the Outer Banks, I (Meredith) was looking forward to this trip with as much excitement as when we went on a 7 day cruise to Key West, Cozumel, the Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands a few years ago! We loaded up and left for the beach early Wednesday morning and returned to the farm late Thursday night.
We packed so much fun (and treats!) into such a short time! We had so much fun in the water. On the first day we swam a lot, but on the second day, the undertow was very strong and few people on the beach could actually handle it. Elliott, Oliver, and Daddy repeatedly attempted to get to the sandbar where the undertow wasn't so strong. They enjoyed riding the huge waves. Daddy convinced me to go with him once, but I got caught up in the undertow and got carried almost to the pier instead of out to the sandbar. I was just hoping a huge wave would come and wash me back to shore! It was fun to watch all the daredevils come back to the shore panting and hunched over from being so beat up by the waves and undertow. We were really glad that it was so nice the first day though, and we still had plenty of fun in the sand and watching the few in the water on the second day. Chicken fights in the water:
Sweet Sheridan:The first evening we went back to the hotel room, got showers, and changed clothes so we could take our yearly Christmas picture. We aren't posting our Christmas picture here until December, but below are a few different shots. The guys are happy to have the much dreaded yearly family picture out of the way already in August!Our new blog header:
Sheridan and I:After taking our pictures, we went out to eat at Outback and then bought ice cream to enjoy at the hotel room. It's so much fun to all be staying in the same room (well, I suppose it's only fun if you're one of the lucky few that gets to sleep on a bed instead of the floor!) and falling asleep to a movie on the TV playing late at night in the background.
It's not an Alexander beach trip without dreaming about buying a beach house! We get caught up in dreaming about owning a house at the beach literally every time we are there. Since I went to real estate school in Kill Devil Hills, and because we have vacationed there forever, we are familiar with the different towns on the Outer Banks, the different types of homes, the weekly rental income for different homes, and we're always dreaming about owning one of our own one day. Usually the least expensive ones are the ones that have suffered through a lot of hurricanes and need serious beach replenishment work and the shore line has eroded so much that when the tide comes in the waves are crashing under the house! This is our latest find, and although it is not terribly endangered, it needs a lot of work! We figured we needed to sell several million cow shares to buy it, but we can dream! :)

Mama took Sheridan and my pictures in the matching sundresses I sewed for us:
Sullivan caught a bird under the pier:Harrison showing off a jellyfish he found:
We stayed at the very nice, new Hilton in Kitty Hawk. Our view from our room:We enjoyed swimming in the pool a little bit during the second day:
We went to Jockey's Ridge on Thursday night and then went to a yummy seafood restaurant before heading back to Amelia. Running down the hill at Jockey's Ridge:
It was such a wonderful trip!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Farmhouse Before & After: Kitchen

When we first moved into the farmhouse, the kitchen was scarcely operational as the water backed up into the sink so badly we had to use the bathtub for washing dishes. The cold water didn't work either so we retrieved drinking water from the tub as well. Shortly after the water problem was fixed, the hot water heater in the kitchen began leaking beyond repair and needed replacing. At about the same time, the flies found out there were people living in the once abandoned house and they came in swarms. It was very discouraging! I couldn't wait to have an operating kitchen that looked and felt habitable.

Fortunately, the kitchen had good bones to work with. The countertops had been replaced about a decade earlier and the cabinets were the original wood and took another coat of paint nicely. However, the floor, a beat up vinyl, definitely needed replacing along with the plastic, fake tile backsplash that had yellowed from years of kitchen heat.
I had no idea how difficult it would be to remove the old flooring. First we pulled up a layer of vinyl, then a layer of parquet, then another layer of vinyl, till we finally reached the original wooden planks of the old kitchen floor. We worked with crow bars, hammers, and wedges. I even learned how to use a reciprocating saw as I cut the flooring from under the cabinets.

As always, Elliott and Oliver were indispensable in providing the skill and muscle needed to complete the project.
A couple of weeks ago, when Timmy and Meredith were in NC cutting lots, the boys offered to help me begin the labor-intensive task of completing the kitchen. They began by cutting and installing beadboard for the backsplash while I focused on deco items like sewing a cherry-themed valance for the window. During our 2 hour drive to church each Sunday, I look forward to my only chance to read or look at magazines. The Sunday before the kitchen renovation, I happened to see a picture of a mirror that had been hung over the stove instead of a range hood. Since the range hood at the farmhouse was broken and expensive to replace, I decided we'd opt for the mirror as well. I was excited to find one at a thrift store for $5.

In the evening, when the candles are lit, it's so refreshing reflecting the newly finished kitchen.
I'm forever looking for a way to disguise my grain buckets. They always look so industrial. I had the idea to paint them and add seat cushions to make them look better and also offer additional seating. Just the other day, while I was washing the never-ending collection of milk jars, Sullivan blessed me by sitting on one of the newly restored grain buckets and read while I worked.
Sheridan helped me spray paint the grain buckets outside amidst the free ranging chickens that always seem to be interested in what we're doing.
Since we're working with a primarily "all white" theme throughout the house, it's fun finding items that bring color and interest to the walls. I found some great looking old plates for $.45 at the thrift store.

The glowing light on this wall is a commercial kitchen fly catcher like restaurants use. It seems to be helping quite a bit to keep the houseflies away.
We continue to meet people who say they knew some of the farmhouse's past residents. It's beginning to make me nervous that the one comment they all share is, "That house sure was cold in the winter!" I don't know if the wall heater (just above the fly catcher) works or not, but I decided to give it a new coat of paint in hopes that it will thank me by keeping us a bit warmer this winter.
Since it didn't seem like constructing display shelves would be in the near future, I opted for baskets instead. A black hen, a chubby, cherry-covered pig, and starfish add color to wall. When asked by Oliver what starfish had to do with the country, I quickly replied, "Never forget the coast, son. Never forget the coast." (We continue to miss living near the beach.)
A plate of Meredith's cookies is always picture-worthy.
Since Meredith, my fellow deco enthusiast, was in NC cutting lots, I only had the boys to share the news of this great find - a metal art piece with cherries. I had seen it many weeks prior when considering a "cherry" deco theme for the kitchen but didn't allow myself to get it, remembering how much I hate to stock pile stuff. I was so excited to see it on clearance for only $10 when I was deco shopping the day before we began the kitchen renovation.
Some shareholders who closed their business sold us their IKEA wood shelves for only $20 each. The shelves have been so handy throughout the farmhouse where closets and storage are very limited.
More of the $.45 thrift store plates bring a bit of color to this wall.

Since space is limited, I made simple hooks and attached them to the stainless steel island for hanging the baskets we use frequently.

Even though we worked so hard to expose the original wood floor, then spent hours sanding and varnishing it, the water stains were just too "rustic" for the old farmhouse to pull off without the floor looking dirty all the time. Knowing that any deco work needing to be done could not possibly be performed by Timmy with his already loaded-to-the-max schedule, I assured him the floor didn't need tiling but instead simply needed a coat of paint- something I could do.

I knew quality floor paint, that could withstand farm-related abuse, would be expensive - as much as $35 gallon - so I decided to just wait till the Lord provided some especially for me. After thanking the Lord for saving the $10 cherry picture for me all those weeks after first spying it, I thought to myself, "I wonder if the Lord has paint for me as well today?" I went to Home Depot and headed straight for the bargain, "oops" paint area, where they put all the mismatched, returned paints, and searched for one that might work for our kitchen floor. Purple, bright lime, magenta - no, no, no. Then, there it was - a beautiful mossy green/gray quality outdoor porch paint for only $5! I was so excited.

The next hurdle would be painting the kitchen floor with a toddler-helper underfoot. In an effort to do the job solo, I asked the older boys if they would take Sheridan on a dinner date so I could paint without assistance.

Sheridan couldn't wait for the boys to finish the evening milking so she could accompany them to one of Amelia's only eating establishments - Subway.

As soon as her little feet left the kitchen, I began painting as fast as I could. They returned home just as I finished the last stroke.

Incidentally, when asked about the date, Sheridan told me with a furrowed brow that she ate in her car seat (the boys did take-out) and even though they went to the grocery store afterward, she wasn't allowed to ride in one of the fun blue shopping cart/police cars because the boys said the carts had "stinky germs". She said, "At Food Why-in (Lion), I walk!"

The floor turned out really well although I look forward to it developing a naturally weathered look in the future.

When Meredith and Timmy returned from 3 days of lot-cutting, the fragrance of candles burning in the newly finished kitchen were there to greet them. What a great feeling to finish yet another room in this old farmhouse.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Tribute to A Young Man With Vision

This week across our country, many 18 year old young men are beginning their freshman year in college. I (Meredith) would imagine most are excited about the new adventure ahead of them. While I recognize that there is a small percentage of these young men who are actually intent on pursuing a particular career interest that requires a college degree and then, in turn, will actually use this degree upon graduation (and I enthusiastically commend these few young men!), statistics support the fact that many are going to college because it is simply "the next thing to do". Our generation seems to look at college in the same way we look at high school. Of course, upon completion of middle school we would move on to high school! However, many aimlessly head into college with the same mindset, not considering the time and money they are wasting if they are not intentional in their approach to their college education. As a young woman desiring marriage and knowing the effects of this epidemic (?) first hand-- an overwhelming deficit in the career and financial stability of young men in their early twenties-- I am thrilled to know an 18 year old young man who has chosen something vastly different from our generation's well traveled path.

While many may find his disinterest in furthering his formal education alarming or unwise, he believes it would be crazy to waste the next 4+ years at college when he could be actively pursuing and cultivating his interest in all natural farming!

He runs an all natural poultry operation, growing and processing 200-300 chickens each month. He sells his poultry, as whole chickens and individual parts, primarily to the customer base he is establishing at two farmers markets in the suburbs of Richmond.

This young man is not unpacking at his dorm and meeting new friends this week. Instead, he's up at 5 am milking cows, gutting chickens, and a host of other hot, labor intensive tasks. Who could possibly debate that what he is occupying his time with-- creating healthy food that plays a part in sustaining our community as well as financially preparing for his future-- is of less value or importance than his peers' choices?

Furthermore, he's not only pursuing what he enjoys and putting food on the table of many families, he's also financially profiting and well on his way as he prepares to one day provide for a family of his own. As many 18 year olds will incur debt (in the form of student loans) equal to, if not exceeding, the figure already sitting in this young man's bank account, he is intent on using his money as wisely and frugally as possible.

This young man is my brother, Elliott, and I am very proud of him!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Farmhouse Before & After: Family Room

Before:I remember the first time Timmy and I (Joy) visited the farmhouse, I climbed in through an unlocked window and decided, upon seeing the enormous, strange furnace in the middle of the family room, that this house was beyond repair! No amount of decorating could compensate for the large, brown monstrosity taking center stage. However, as the Lord made it evident that this would become our home, I began considering all types of ways to make the furnace less noticeable.The solution, I thought, would be to find some interesting piece to put behind the furnace that would help draw attention away from the old fashioned heater. As we worked around the farm, cleaning up the grounds and outbuildings, I found a half rotted, old chicken house ladder that I fell in love with. I kept it in a special place so no one would accidentally throw it on the burn pile. You can't imagine the criticism I received from the older boys when I began decorating the family room and requested they hang the dilapidated ladder over the furnace! They said, "This time, Mama, you've gone too far! This is a nasty, old chicken house ladder. You can't decorate with it!" However, I insisted that it had been sufficiently sanitized and would be the perfect item to draw attention away from the heater. One of the boys added, "Have you asked Dad if you can bring this in the house?!" I explained that I prefer to do all my decorating without male consultation and asked that they quickly install it before Dad arrived.
I hung an old quilt that Tim's grandmother made, along with some very inexpensive items I found that could withstand the heat once the furnace is in operation. (Hopefully it even works or we're going to be mighty cold this winter!) I don't know about anyone else, but I sure have enjoyed looking at the old ladder instead of the big, old heater!
There are unattractive metal plates called flu covers in many of the rooms. (Before)I was thrilled to find this picture that is serving as a more appealing cover able to withstand heat while looking a bit more fashionable.
I decided to go with a patriotic theme in the family room, using reds, whites, and blues. I was overjoyed when the Lord provided an old, cotton, American flag for only $15 at an antique shop. I recovered the pillows with bargain fabrics and made a new computer table skirt with a navy gingham.
Since I only purchased pillow fabric and bought a couple of new items for the chicken house ladder, this room's redo cost around $50.