Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Duggars at the HEAV Convention

We were absolutely thrilled when several of the Duggars stopped by our booth to try our
 ice-cream and watch "19 Cows and Counting".

 It was so exciting to get to see them. They have such a wonderful testimony.
 To quote my mother, "Now we can die in peace." :)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

19 Cows and Counting

Our farm, Avery's Branch, will be speaking on "How To Begin a Sustainable Farm For Less Than $5000" at the VA Homeschool Convention. Since the famous Duggar family will be there as keynote speakers, we prepared this video to be shown at our booth. We hope you enjoy it!

Remembering the Move to the Abandoned Farm

As we approach the four year anniversary of our move to the abandoned farm, I'm reminded of the many adjustments farm life has brought.  These posts were written during the transition.  God has been faithful to lead us all along the way.

Originally posted May 3, 2009

A New Alexander Adventure

With our days as busy as ever, time to record the wonderful things God is doing has to be squeezed into the 2 hour commute to church today through the handy use of the portable laptop.

While driving home three weeks ago today, on April 12th, Easter Sunday, our family discussed our increasing concern about the lack of pasture land we have for our growing herd of dairy cows. We decided we would dedicate the week to sincere prayer, asking God to give us discernment to know what to do.

We are not in a position to buy land because our personal properties have not sold and we are committed to moving forward in a "no new debt" manner. Needing to be close to the cows, since we milk them twice a day, prohibits us from moving the cows to rented land while the family stays behind. The only viable alternative has been for us to find land with a house available for rent.

During our week of seeking God's guidance, we assigned each of our family team members specific tasks: Tim would search back roads for possible farm rental properties during milk deliveries. Meredith would do an exhaustive search through MLS as well as follow up on any leads Tim turned up. I (Joy) would list the home we currently live in on craigslist to see if anyone would be interested in renting it while it would continue to be on the market for sale. The bigger boys would offer valuable insight as we discussed the research findings. With our strategy in place, we committed the week to God , knowing that without His help, all our effort would be in vain.

Since this was taking place in the weeks preceding Elliott's graduation pig-pickin' and square dance, the time we spent researching was very limited and had to be well-organized. Monday began with everyone in position, searching, seeking, and praying.

As possibilities surfaced, we quickly assessed each one, but only God could reveal the answers in the way He did. Midway through the week, during my morning Bible reading, God miraculously gave us a verse that was an incredible encouragement. "God will greatly bless His people. Wherever they plant seed, bountiful crops will spring up. Their flocks and herds will GRAZE IN GREEN PASTURES." Isaiah 32:20 We were so excited to hear a word from the Lord. We decided all of us would commit the verse to memory that day and we posted it in several places around the house to serve as a continual reminder of what appeared to be a very encouraging promise.

During the week, we talked about one particular property that we had stumbled upon several weeks earlier. It seemed like it would provide a perfect pasture and the owner was very eager - I should say UNUSUALLY eager - to make a deal with us. As we researched during the week, all possibilities were compared against the eager owner's farm. As God would have it during our week of prayer for discernment, Meredith happened to be reading the local paper on Thursday and we were shocked to see the property with the eager owner listed in the foreclosure section. Our mouths dropped as we suddenly understood the owner's willingness to quickly make a deal with us. He had withheld the information from us about the impending foreclosure and without God's guidance we may have taken him up on his deal and gone through the exhausting effort of moving to a farm that would have shortly thereafter been foreclosed on. Our confidence in God's guidance and protection of our family soared!

In the midst of the week a family called on recommendation of a mutual friend inquiring about possibly renting the cottage (garage/apt). I explained that the cottage was no longer for rent but told them that we had another home available - our own. The drawback, I explained, was that our home would continue to be on the market for sale. As only God could do, He worked out the meeting of the family, showing of the house, and following discussions in such a way that both families agreed that a rent-to-own situation would work wonderfully for both. With an excellent recommendation from their current landlord, we set a move-in date of June 1st to begin their rent-to-own term.

While Tim, Meredith, and I drove around Thursday afternoon to check out the properties discovered through computer research, we stopped at the local Mennonite store to pick up the bulk supply of wheat berries that we had ordered. In casual conversation, we asked the ladies at the store if they knew of any abandoned farms in the area. They discussed the status of a few between one another then said, "Well, if you're bold you could check out the old farm just across from the Mennonite church."

We drove right over and surveyed the old place, but to me, it seemed like just one more uninhabitable, falling down homestead. Not so to Timmy and Meredith. They could see potential. As soon as we returned home, Meredith immediately began searching county records online to find the owner's name. Timmy analyzed aerial views of the farm through google earth and made plans to contact the owner and we took the older boys over to ask for their opinions regarding the feasibility of rehabilitating the farm. From that point on, I can't even begin to tell you the many ways God worked to confirm this would be His choice for us and our animals.

And so begins a new Alexander adventure! We will be spending this month repairing the 100 year old farmhouse and outbuildings so that we can move in by June 1st. There are many thoughts I have about moving into an old, abandoned house, but I feel I must be cautious in voicing them because this is God's provision for us. We asked for discernment regarding our growing farm and God has miraculously opened this door for us. We are leaning heavily on God's promise to "greatly bless His people" in this, our latest adventure.

Pictures of Our New (Or Not-So-New) Farm

As Mama wrote in the previous entry, within the next few weeks, we will be downsizing so our cows can do some upsizing! We are excited that God has clearly and quickly opened many doors for our family and our farm. The Lord has provided an abandoned 100 year old house and dairy farm for our family. As you will see in the following pictures, there is a lot of work to be done in a very short amount of time! I (Meredith) am already looking forward to posting the "After" pictures, but at this point, everything is definitely still in the "Before" stage. I only have exterior pictures, but hopefully I will be able to post interior pictures in the future.

The dairy barn and other outbuildings will suit our needs so well. The dairy barn is huge and has 32 stantions. The owners have been using the dairy barn as a storage room for many years, so we have a lot of clearing out and throwing away to do. There is a huge hay loft above. Since Elliott and Oliver work for a hay farmer, they are very familiar with different hay lofts and say that this one is of very high quality.
There are many other outbuildings on the farm. It will be so convenient to be more organized and spread out. At our current home, we basically took our house and added a bunch of cows, pigs, goats, and chickens to our land and called it a farm. This is a REAL farm though and the set-up is so much better than what we are working with at our current home. It is a great blessing. Daddy and the boys checking out different outbuildings on the property:
There is also an old singlewide trailer that we can use for farm interns in the future.
Our new farm is about 11 miles from our current home, and the location will drop about 10-15 minutes from most of our farm delivery sites and the farmer's markets we work at. I've always been fascinated with learning about the Mennonites and Amish, and this farm is right in the middle of a heavily Mennonite area, down the street from the Mennonite store, and across the street from the Mennonite church.
Also, for several years I have enjoyed reading the book series by Beverly Lewis about the Amish and I feel as if I am moving to one of the lovely farms they live on! It is like stepping back in time.Sulli and Harrison playing at one of the old gas pumps on the farm:
Climbing silos:
There is a very, very long trail that goes down through farm land behind the house. I can't wait to get our four-wheelers out there."Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!" Psalm 144:15"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19"For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills." Deuteronomy 8:7"For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills." Psalm 50:10
"God will greatly bless His people. Wherever they plant seed, bountiful crops will spring up. Their flocks and herds will graze in green pastures." Isaiah 32:20

Interior Pictures of our "New" Old Farmhouse
Yesterday was "Day One" in the restoration process of our "new" farmhouse. We worked hard, however, it wasn't very visible progress. The following picture is the back porch/sunroom. Oliver took off the awnings to let in extra sunlight (and because the awnings were quite outdated!):
From the back porch you enter the kitchen:
Sulli on the counter top peeling off old wallpaper:
The laundry room is accessed from the kitchen:
I (Meredith) worked on unscrewing the many curtain rod brackets over the windows. I was on the washing machine in this picture, and on top of some windows were 3 different places where folks have added curtain rod brackets over the past 100 years!: The bathroom is off of the laundry room. The only bathroom!
The dining room is very large. Daddy is building two closets along one wall because the house lacks closets and storage areas (two of the bedrooms don't have closets!).
Daddy and Elliott began tearing up the layers of flooring to get down to the wood floors, which we're having sanded. Wood floors are most practical in our homes because our floors get a lot of use from a lot of muddy boots!
The family room:
There is a huge kerosene heater in the family room. It is quite unsightly, so we would love any creative ideas anyone may have of how to cleverly disguise it (it takes up an entire corner of the family room!).
Elliott ripping out trim where they were building a closet:
The master bedroom is on the first floor:
Hallway leading to the master bedroom (the door on the right), a second entrance door, and the stairs leading to the remaining three bedrooms:
I like the little balcony area on the second floor! We are thinking about building bookshelves and a window seat for a little library.
Of course all carpet is coming up and we are painting all the walls! This will eventually be Sulli and Harrison's bedroom:
We have lived in three bedroom houses for a very long time, so the four boys are looking forward to sharing each of their bedrooms with only one brother instead of three. Sheridan took her afternoon nap in what will eventually be Elliott and Oliver's bedroom:
The following is going to be the bedroom shared by Sheridan and me! I am looking forward to sharing a room with my sweet sister. I had just finished tearing off the wallpaper in this room when I took the following picture:
I love this little area and hope to turn it into a sewing corner!
Harrison worked hard hauling 2x4's for the closet construction to the house:
Harrison taking a break at the end of the work day:
Sulli dropped some lumber on his toe, causing it to immediately turn purple! He was put on "light-duty" and took a break to read on the front porch:Some pictures of the fields:
There is also a pond on the property: More views of the exterior:
Oliver and Elliott taking off awnings:
The view from the road:
We are moving to the house in just 3 weeks! We have so much to do over the next few weeks. I'm already greatly looking forward to being settled in and sharing the "After" pictures!
Behind The Scenes of Week One

Behind the scenes of this first week of the farm fix-up, are stories and events that remind us that we've stepped out of our old, familiar life and into a world where we have so very much to learn and experience.

After our first day of working at the new farm last week, we all came home exhausted, tired, and late for milking. Meredith's crew arrived home just seconds before Tim's but it was long enough for her to go in the house, turn on her heels, and meet the second crew as we pulled into the driveway. We were greeted by one very angry young lady shouting with great frustration, "The goats have been IN OUR HOUSE!" Sure enough, in our absence the goats broke out of their pen, climbed our tall porch steps, hoofed the handicap accessible door handle, came right in, and made themselves at home. It appeared they had enjoyed a nice snack of bread from the kitchen counter top, eggs straight from the carton, and sadly my decorative wheat bundles that had been harvested and saved for my memory of Meredith's first property she bought and sold. I felt as if it were some twisted Goldilocks fairy tale as Timmy ran upstairs and exclaimed in seriousness and with great relief that at least the goats hadn't gone into our bedrooms. We worked to clean up the mess almost in silence for fear of saying things that really shouldn't be said!

The next day presented more new challenges in this world of farming in which we're so unfamiliar. As I awoke that morning, the first thing that crossed my mind was a cow that had been very sick. I prayed for CC before I barely opened my eyes Friday. As Tim and the bigger boys began their morning chores, it became obvious that CC was even worse. She was less than 10 days away from calving but we feared she wouldn't make it that long. Tim called the vet with whom he had been in constant contact regarding CC's condition, and I could overhear the vet say it was time to put her down. Timmy flipped his cell phone shut, looked at me, and said, "I don't know how to do that!"

As God has so faithfully done in the past, He has given us people to help us in our time of need. Tim called our new farming friend, Ty, and explained the situation. Ty assured us he could help but suggested we try to save the baby calf since it was so close to the delivery date. He immediately made contact with a farmer known for his skill in such procedures and both men met our boys within hours. Tim and I were working at the new farm, waiting for word from the boys and praying for a miraculous outcome. After what seemed like a long time, tenderhearted Elliott called Timmy and simply said, "What do you want me to do with both of them?" Tears fell from my eyes as the disappointment overwhelmed me. There would be no miraculous farm story today.

With so much going on, grief is quickly pushed aside by the next pressing detail. It would be Sullivan's injured toe taking center stage. A few days earlier he had dropped a piece of lumber on it and by Tuesday, the toe nail was pushing away from the skin because of the extreme amount of pressure from the bruising below. He was limping and complaining of pain in his leg from the throbbing pressure. Knowing that we'd end up at a doctor if I didn't find a solution, I studied remedies online. After reading about the shocking solution, I thought, "If we're going to be farmers, I suppose I better learn how to do stuff like this and not be a pansy." (This next part is not for the faint of heart, but honest to goodness, it worked!) Brave Sullivan, my trusting patient, sat very still as I heated a needle till the metal point was red. The directions said I should touch the needle point to the toe nail repeatedly until a hole was made. I tried to make casual conversation, raising my voice a bit louder when the heat would sizzle and melt the toe nail, while my patient sat calmly as if he had complete confidence in my new found medical skills. Just as the directions said, suddenly the pressure began to release and a mixture of.. well, you don't want to know every detail, began to come from the newly drilled hole. It seemed the procedure would be a success until suddenly (the online medical education never mentioned this might happen) the needle went too far and poor Sullivan shouted in pain! Oh, I felt just terrible for him. In that moment, I would have gladly spent the $250 to have had a podiatrist to do this. Sullivan was very forgiving of my inefficiency and I'm happy to report that he's healed!! His toe went from terrible purple with the nail beginning to lift off, to almost completely normal - with the exception of the unique toe nail piercing. As I try so hard to model my life after the Proverbs 31 woman, I wondered for the first time why the biblical description doesn't mention her dispensing medical care. Maybe I don't have to become the farm medic after all?!

The first week of work at the new farm concluded with a thrilling, overwhelming welcome from those with whom we'll be sharing our property - an abundance of black snakes! Yes, they've come from near and far to greet us. We have one living in the pump house for whom we are choosing a name, while many others have taken time to stop by for a surprise visit. One slithered across the driveway as if to assure us that he'd keep an eye on the place while we'd be away. Another tried to join us on the porch for lunch. Yet, one really went all out to make us feel welcome and was discovered in the master bedroom. We don't know if he came in under a door or maybe just through one of the holes in the bedroom wall. You can only imagine how we anticipate more visits from the vast welcoming committee with each closet we open or bucket we overturn.

All in all, I hope week 2 of the renovations is much less eventful and our biggest dilemma will be how to hang 8 bath towels in a tiny, closet sized, shared bathroom!

Progress Update 

Yesterday marked one week of work on our new house. At least some of the family has been out there working every day except Sunday. I (Meredith) wish I could post amazing "after" pictures, but everything is still very much in the "before" stage! We have made a lot of progress though. All of the wallpaper has been torn down, as well as the vinyl backsplash in the kitchen. Daddy was replacing one of the broken window panes in the picture below:
Elliott and Oliver worked hard pulling up the many layers of flooring that had been put down over the years:
The floors are stripped down to the original wood now, so we can begin sanding and refinishing them.
Daddy finished building the closets in the dining room and one of the upstairs bedrooms. We had planned to do the painting, but we found someone on Craigslist that was willing to do it for a very good price so we hired his crew instead. They began painting yesterday and Daddy says they are doing quality work.
The upstairs bedroom:Elliott and Oliver have learned so many carpentry skills over the years they have worked with Daddy:We were having quotes done for the roof repairs, but PaPa (Daddy's father) and Daddy were able to fix the roof yesterday! That will save a lot of money. Mama also tore up floors and pulled the left behind nails.
We bring lunch each day and eat on the front porch:
I pulled the nails left on the walls from where a zillion pictures have hung over the years. Then I patched the walls with spackling and sanded them:
Maybe our next post will look a little more encouraging! A fresh coat of paint always seems to make a huge difference in all of the houses we have fixed up. 

Finally Moved In

On Friday, the cows were moved over to the new farm, so now we are all officially living here! I (Mere) am so glad and especially hopeful that our lives will settle down soon. We (or at least Mama and I) still have the goal of having the interior and exterior complete (unpacked, decorated, painted, landscaped) by July 4 (less than two weeks away!).
Milkings are going slightly faster because the boys are bringing all of the cows (we have 8 cows milking right now) into the barn's stanchions and going from one cow to the next with the milking equipment. We used to have to bring them into our small, makeshift milking barn one at a time.Elliott hooking one up to the milking machine:Gertrude was being stubborn and didn't want to come in with the rest of the girls: Elliott in the temporary clean room processing the milk: Sweet Sheridan sitting in the milking barn:
The cows and calves look so happy grazing on such green pastures! "The Lord will greatly bless His people. Wherever they plant seed, bountiful crops will spring up. Their cattle and donkeys will graze freely." Isaiah 32:20

Farmhouse Before & After: The Bathroom

The only bathroom, with its peeling vinyl floor, rusted tub, and cruddy toilet was our biggest decorating challenge. My first thoughts were of gutting it and starting over again but with limited time and finances it only made sense to work with what we had. God blessed our feeble effort in many ways. The total cost of the bathroom renovation was less than $150 including a newly tiled floor, along with new towels and several other deco items.
When we first began working on the house, I noticed that every time I went outside, I saw a window that I couldn't find when I was inside. It finally occurred to me that the window was in the shower and had been covered with vinyl paneling. Realizing that a small, closet-sized bathroom needed as much light and ventilation as possible, I opted to expose the window in the tub area. Everyone was very reluctant about a window in the actual shower but I assured them it was quite stylish and no different than fancy homes which incorporate glass brick in the bathrooms. I bought some paint especially made for frosting glass and after Tim trimmed out the newly discovered window, I sprayed it so the light could come in without compromising privacy. I also made a small plastic curtain for the window to aid in privacy when the window is open.
Although barely visible now, the mirror had to be carefully chosen to cover some very large holes in the wall that my servant-hearted son, who likes to remain anonymous, cleverly covered to discourage mice from stopping in for visits.

The light fixture was very outdated with frilly, tulip shaped glass bulb covers so I simply replaced the shades with more conservative, amber-tinted cones.

I absolutely love toile fabrics so I searched online and found an antique brown Jamestown/Williamsburg pattern for an accent curtain at the shower entrance.
Because eight of us are sharing the tiny bathroom, I thought it essential to have designated towels. (I, for one, do not like to dry off with "boy" towels as I don't think the boys necessarily come out of the tub completely clean each night!) Meredith did a wonderful job monogramming each of our names on fluffy, chocolate brown towels.
I am especially thankful for the beautiful, new tile floor that extends from the bathroom to the attached laundry room that was a gift of labor from a milk customer. When hearing that we were moving the farm for the benefit of the cows, we were showered with kindness from a multitude of customers. This man, a computer specialist, showed up on his day off equipped with his tiling tools, and he promptly installed the new floor. What a gift of encouragement!

I am also thankful for the sense of peace God continues to give me in regard to accepting this old farmhouse as God's provision for us. Surely it is making some of the less desirable aspects much more tolerable. Yes, peace still abounds in acceptance.

In Acceptance Lies Peace

To say that the move to the new (very old) farmhouse has been difficult would be a gross understatement. Much to my (Joy's) disappointment, it has been grueling, brutal, and overwhelming. I've told myself time and time again that we've made plenty of moves in the past and can surely handle this one with grace, enthusiasm, and vigor, only to find myself once again at the Father's feet begging for a second wind to help me get through this most difficult move.

Over the years we had perfected our move in/move out technique and had been successful with the last few moves at being completely unpacked and settled in 48 hours. I knew this time things would be different but I had no idea how different.

Moving into a home still in the construction phase would be difficult but factoring in the adjustments of living in an old, very old, home just about wiped me out. Blindly feeling my way through the rooms in search of the pull chains that turn on the lights, learning to live with clever mice who avoid every attempt at being trapped while chewing holes in clothing in the laundry area, and retrieving drinking water from the bathtub were all adjustments for which I was unprepared.

As I fell into bed each night, I continued to hope that eventually it would get better. That is, until the bubble that held all my hope burst last week.

From the very beginning of learning that this old farmhouse would be God's destination for us, I have envisioned completion of the projects needing to be done that would make me feel like it was a suitable house. Many of my target projects had to be revised as the reality set in of rehabilitating a 100 year old, abandoned farmhouse. Yet I still held out hope that the exterior projects would make the home look loved, cared for, and primarily inhabited!

Most upsetting to me was the green metal roof with peeling paint and rust being its most defining attributes. As people would need to come to the farm for various reasons, I always told them to look for the run down, overgrown farm with the rusting, peeling green metal roof. However, I held out hope that this defining eyesore would soon be remedied. At first I hoped that we could afford to have it painted professionally. That hope was replaced by imagining that the bigger boys could paint it. Once I began living here though and saw the exhausting list of real projects requiring their attention around the farm, I realized I certainly couldn't ask them to enter my world of decorating dilemmas by expecting them to paint the roof. So I concluded that the project would have to become my own.

I talked with Elliott and Oliver about where I might find the necessary tools: the pressure washer, a very tall ladder, and scaffolding. My enthusiasm was met with their reluctance as they both told me that our pressure washer was so powerful, it would throw me off the roof the instant I pulled the trigger. I told them I'd figure out a solution and simply asked if all the tools I needed were here at the farm.

I began to plot, plan, and envision the finished project. First I'd paint the roof, then reglaze the windows while I had the ladder and scaffolding in place. Then the younger boys and Meredith could join me as we painted the porch with all its wooden railing. Last of all, Meredith and I could wash the very cloudy, dirty windows that had been overlooked for generations. Then, I could live here with some sense of completion, and pride. I wouldn't have to describe my home as the "most forsaken farm on the road".

Last week I finally shared the details of my upcoming project with Timmy. It seemed he barely heard my strategy when he bluntly said, "You can't pressure wash or paint the roof." At first I thought he was challenging my ability to complete the task but then he made it perfectly clear: he wasn't allowing me to do it! He was forbidding me! He mumbled something about the danger and the certainty of broken bones but I quickly told him my plan to tie myself off with a rope to the beds in each of the rooms for safety. He didn't seem persuaded by my well thought out strategy. In fact, he ended the conversation by saying that I'd have to adjust to the roof because it wouldn't be changing any time soon. What?! I can't live in a forsaken house indefinitely! It's not who I am! I like clean. I like finished. I like pretty. Is it not enough that I've had to make the difficult adjustment of living in a pre-indoor plumbing interior with one closet-sized add-on bathroom, a kitchen with major water issues, no air conditioning, and one plug-in electrical outlet per room?! Can't I at least have a nice exterior?

Sadly, the bursting bubble left my family with one very cranky, discontented Mama. I talked with the Lord, for what seemed like the one hundredth time about changing my outlook and helping me accept the house He chose for our provision.

As I prayed, God reminded me of a quote I once heard Elisabeth Elliot recite: "In acceptance lies peace." I pondered, "If I will just accept the roof and die to the kind of house I'd like to live in, the problem will be solved." Then, in one God-strengthened moment, I did it! I accepted it. This is my roof. This is my green, rusty, metal roof. And this is my peeling, rotten wooden porch. This is my white metal siding that has turned gray from weathering. These are my metal shutters, faded from a century of sun, popping out of their frames from years of neglect. This is where I live. Yes. This is my home.

In that instant, it seemed the house flies stood still, none buzzing around me trying to find a place to land, while I breathed in a fresh breath of peace that comes only through acceptance. Suddenly, I was filled with renewed energy and strength. I pillowed my head that night envisioning how I could decorate my porch and begin living here (and liking it here) just like it is.
I awoke Saturday morning excited to begin decorating my newly accepted home exterior. I scrounged through the old barns, finding one treasure after another. I marveled throughout the day that a month of discontentment with the old farmhouse's exterior had so quickly been replaced through the simple act of acceptance. Yes, even with green, peeling, rusty metal roofs, in acceptance lies peace. 

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 counter tops 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 back splash 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 bead board for the back splash 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.


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.

New Farm Schedule

Since moving to the farm, we've all struggled to find a balance between work and well, work! It seems there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish the many tasks calling out to us. At nearly the point of complete exhaustion, Timmy had an idea for a possible solution. He suggested we all begin our day at 5am and give it our best during the next 8 hours till lunch time at 1pm. We could then all take a break during the heat of the day and be rejuvenated when evening milking rolled around.

The new farm schedule has been working wonderfully although chores often attempt to steal the designated afternoon break time. We're trying to stay flexible though and not get too disappointed when we don't actually get a break till supper at 8pm.

Sometimes the flexibility has involved the 5am wake up time. This morning, for example, alarms could be heard at 5am although not heeded. Timmy knew that after a night like we had last night, sleeping till 6:15 was a much wiser choice.

A huge storm came through in the middle of the night with high winds and torrential down pours. As the storm arrived and we both woke up, I closed windows throughout the house while Timmy surveyed the farm through intermittent flashes of lightening illuminating the farm yard. In an instant he saw Elliott's flock of Thanksgiving turkeys all standing ignorantly on top of their shelter which was made especially to protect the birds from storms such as this. He woke the older boys and all of them headed out into the clapping thunder, high winds, pelting rain, and bright flashes of lightening. They ran to the nearby turkey pasture and quickly tossed all the turkeys under their shelter. Then they ran to check on young broilers and baby chicks - securing brooder boxes and shelters.

No sooner did the boys all come in, change out of their totally drenched clothes and crawl into bed than did Sammie's new puppy begin crying long and loud. Timmy tried to quiet him through the window but it was no use. He told me he was concerned that if the pup continued to wail, it would call in the same predator who had recently killed the rest of Sammie's litter. Upon hearing that, I rose to my feet and headed for the kitchen. I held the fridge door open for what seemed like an eternity trying to find something that might settle the puppy. After spying some leftovers I was willing to part with, I headed outside to find the pup. Frightened and wet, he scampered toward me and gobbled up the plate of food and stayed quiet the rest of the night.
So, the beautiful picture of the sun rising over the corn was NOT taken this morning, but rather on one of the more successful "New Farm Schedule" days.

Farmhouse Before & After: Library

We finally have more before & after pictures ready. This is the sunny little library/sitting area overlooking the stairs.

Before:After:We pulled up the carpet to expose the beautiful wood floors and painted the stair railings white. A store was going out of business and sold us each of their wooden bookcases for $20. They have been great for organization throughout our little home, and they serve as shelves in our library. The window seat consists of two large, sturdy baskets with a blanket and pillows draped over them. Our previous before & after pictures (the kitchen, bathroom, family room, and my bedroom) can be found here.

In Acceptance Lies Peace - The Rest of the Story

Since farm life is moving at a breakneck pace while we prepare for two upcoming events, I (Joy) am thankful to have found a few extra minutes today to record God's goodness to us. I'm so eager to share the wonderful things God has done since my "In Acceptance Lies Peace" post.

Although my previous post claimed victory over the desire to have a home with a decent and inhabited-looking exterior, I have to say that thoughts of a painted roof never completely left my mind. I continued to imagine creative ways in which we could afford to have the roof painted in spite of the fact that Timmy said I couldn't paint it myself and he didn't have time for the decorative project.

My final attempt to finance the job was in offering the money I would be receiving for my returned ice cream machine that had recently been shipped back to the manufacturer. In causual conversation I mentioned my offer to Tim but he quickly said that I needed to get used to the roof because it would not be painted any time soon - even if I contributed the ice cream machine money.

Meredith later told me that she was sorry that Dad said no. But I quickly replied, "As soon as Daddy told me 'no', I said a prayer to the Lord. I told Him, 'You know how I feel about living in this old, dirty-looking house. You know that I think a painted roof would make it look lived in and cared for. I'm done talking to Timmy about it. God, if You want the roof painted, will You paint it?'" It was a simple, quick prayer to the Lord but it gave me complete peace once again and my family wasn't doomed to live with a cranky, discontented mother as was the case the last time.

A couple of days later a truck came down our driveway and Timmy went out to greet them. This happens all the time as neighboring farmers stop by occasionally for a quick visit and a chat with Timmy. After a few minutes, Meredith alerted me that Daddy, along with the men from the truck, was walking around the yard and all of them were pointing at the roof. Soon after, Timmy came in the house and told me the men were metal roof painters. Seeing that our roof needed painting and they needed work, they asked Timmy if they could paint our roof. Timmy told me they were mobilizing their trucks and equipment and would be at our house within a few hours. I was so excited I shouted, "God wanted the roof painted!"

I was so overjoyed to have a home that finally looks lived in and not abandoned that I told Timmy I would thank him for the next 30 days straight - and I did (thanks to reminders from Oliver as he'd whisper to me some days, "Did you thank Dad for the roof today?"). Tim insists I missed two days so I've continued the practice as often as it crosses my mind.

As if that weren't enough, to finally have a painted roof, would you believe that the same work crew showed up a couple of weeks ago to see if they could paint the rusty, metal roofs on the barn and outbuildings? Imagine my delight when I discovered that God wanted painted roofs on the outbuildings as well!

With the house roof beautifully painted, we could begin washing the windows - an overwhelming task to say the least. In God's goodness, we were blessed beyond words when a family friend who owns a window- washing business, volunteered to wash all the windows that have been overlooked for generations. I could barely contain my excitement as he finished one room after another, leaving us at the end of the day with windows so beautifully clean. What a wonderful gift! Several weeks later I still can't get over the blessing of the clean windows. Something about the windows being clean has caused my heart to clear a major hurdle in accepting this abandoned house as my home. After the windows were cleaned, I told Timmy, "I think I can live here."

Freshly painted roofs and clean windows - surely small details in the big picture of life, yet they are precious treasures to this city girl suddenly turned farm wife. In acceptance lies peace, but oh how great the delight when the desires of our hearts are graciously lavished on us from the loving hand of our Father.

Penny Pumpkins

In preparation for our upcoming events, I (Joy) planned to purchase some pumpkins to help with the decorating effort. I knew we couldn't afford to buy full price pumpkins so I eagerly awaited the passing of October 31st when I hoped they would be reduced.

On Sunday, November 1st, I noticed pumpkins at Walmart that had been reduced to just $1. "Just as I had hoped!" I thought. I mentioned to Timmy that we should probably buy them right away. However, he nonchalantly suggested we wait a while. I was agitated on the inside but reminded myself that usually when Timmy says or does something that doesn't make sense to me, I usually don't regret having followed his lead. So I chose to not voice my disapproval that we weren't scarfing up the bargain pumpkins.

However, as the days passed, I began to search for pumpkins at other places, only to find that everyone was sold out. No pumpkins anywhere. I wondered how I would decorate without pumpkins. How could I make our place look warm and welcoming with just a bale of hay?! I began to regret my silence just a few days earlier when I was perched directly in front of plenty of pumpkins that were just $1.

As the week drew near to the end, I decided to call the Walmart where I had spied the $1 pumpkins. The sales associate said the pumpkins were still there but the manager told them to throw them all away that day. Much to my disappointment, we were scheduled to be processing almost 100 chickens that day so it would be impossible for me to leave for the one and one half hour round trip to buy pumpkins. My thoughts went from, "God must have not wanted pumpkins this year" to "That sure didn't do me any good to be silent when I should have told Timmy we needed to get those pumpkins right that minute!".

After processing, I decided to call the Walmart one more time and ask if they disposed of the pumpkins as planned that day. What a lesson God had for me in following my husband's lead. The manager decided to further reduce the pumpkins to just one penny each! Imagine my delight as my good husband drove me to the Walmart 45 minutes away after an exhausting day of processing chickens to purchase 78 pumpkins that only cost 78 cents. I hope the reminder to follow my husband's lead won't fade when the pumpkins make their way to the pigs and cows after Thanksgiving is over. May I long remember that God often works through our husbands in ways that are not discernible to us as wives, working out the details both great and small for our ultimate good and His glory.

I'm so glad to see that God did want pumpkins this year! 
These posts were written from May to October 2009.  God so wonderfully provided for us then and continues to provide for us now.  We have so very much to be thankful for!