Tag Archives: family

January 17th was a very sad day

It’s taken me a month to write this because I start crying!  In January 2004 this little lady was given to me from my husband for a Christmas gift.

Sassy was born on December 8, 2004 and she came to live with us six weeks later.

Sassy was born on December 8, 2004 and she came to live with us six weeks later.

Everyone instantly fell in love with her!

Everyone instantly fell in love with her!  She was also the runt of the litter.

Due to the fact that it has taken me two weeks to get this far in the post I will just show you some of our pictures of her as she grew.  It’s just too hard to put into words what a special dog/pet/family member she was!!

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Sassy twelve years later!!

Sassy twelve years later!!

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Did I Say Canning Season Was Over. . . NOT!

Nope, canning season is not over and believe it or not I’m glad. I’ve been canning half-gallons of apple juice all morning!

Twenty half-gallons of fresh apple juice canned and sealed.

Twenty half-gallons of fresh apple juice canned and sealed.  There’s only 15 jars showing here because the last batch is just about ready to come off the stove.

Our orchards did not bare much for us this year due to the frigid spring and heavy frost when the trees were budding and flowering. I love a glass of juice when I first get up in the mornings and apple juice is one of my favorites right up there with grape juice.  We decided we would have to purchase some apples to make me some juice.

Eddie and I ventured over to Botetourt County last week and picked up six 70-lb. sacks of their cider apples.  The day we arrived to pick them up they were sorting Red Delicious and they were beautiful  Out of 420 pounds of apples we may have found a dozen with rotten spots.

Six bags of red delicious apples

Six bags of red delicious apples

Beautiful Red Delicous apples for eating, juicing, cooking and baking.

Beautiful Red Delicious apples for eating, juicing, cooking and baking.

On Tuesday, our daughter was off from work and came up to press apples with us.  We cleaned up the cider press, washed the apples, and started pressing all of the wonderful juice out of the apples.

Cider press is cleaned and ready to make some juice.

Cider press is cleaned and ready to make some juice.

Pouring in the first bucket full

Pouring in the first bucket full

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Cider Mill

American Cider Mill

Sassy watches close by and freezing since she got a haircut and cold air gets in her old bones pretty quick but she won't miss a family outing.

Sassy watches close by and freezing since she got a haircut and cold air gets in her old bones pretty quick but she won’t miss a family outing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We finished the seventy pounds with two 12 gallon milk cans full of juice and a bowl full of apples left over to eat and make some apple bars.

We use all of our milkcans here on the farm for cider in the fall, watering our plants as we put them in the garden and for maple syrup in the spring

We use all of our milkcans here on the farm for cider in the fall, watering our plants as we put them in the garden and for maple syrup in the spring.

Heather presses.

Heather presses.

Mom presses.

Mom presses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family fun

Family fun

We stored the cans in our garage until this morning so it would stay ice-cold and so the settlements squished into the juice would settle to the bottom of the can.

I washed up all of the half gallons jars and sterilized them for the juice.  Eddie went to the garage and  poured the juice gently into large stainless steel pots and brought them to the kitchen.  I heated the juice just to boiling and poured it into the hot jars. placed the lids on and tighten them for canning.  The jars were too tall to fit any of my canners so we used our turkey cooker for the job and it held five half-gallon jars.

Turkey deep fryer hasn't been used a lot but it sure came in handy for this job. I rarely use half-gallon jars for any canning.

Turkey deep fryer hasn’t been used a lot but it sure came in handy for this job. I rarely use half-gallon jars for any canning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After placing the filled jars in the “canner”, I filled it with hot water almost covering the jars, turned the heat up to high and waited for it to start boiling.  Once the boiling started, I timed the process for 25 minutes and when completed I turned off the stove and let the boiling stop.  I then picked up the jars and placed them on a heavy towel on my kitchen table (away from drafts) so they could seal. We have twenty half-gallons which should last through most of the winter.

The difference in the quart and half-gallon jar is shown here.

Half-gallon jar compared to a quart jar.

Half-gallon jar compared to a quart jar.

 

I love these tongs because they're so strong and easy to handle when removing full, hot jars.

I love these tongs because they’re so strong and easy to handle when removing full, hot jars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saved the sacks the apples were in to use next year when picking our own apples if Mother Nature cooperates, bagging onions, drying walnuts or anything else we may need them for.

These green mesh sacks held 65 - 70 pounds of apples and we save them for other uses. Recycle is a big word at our place!

These green mesh sacks held 65 – 70 pounds of apples and we save them for other uses. Recycle is a big word at our place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The apple peelings filled up one big galvanized bath tub and four five gallon buckets.  We feed them to each of the three herds of cattle and our bulls.  The extra milkcan of juice will harden to cider which we also love.  If there’s any that gets too hard, I’ll let it turn to vinegar and store it in jugs in the cellar.

Leftovers after the juice is pressed out. They're unbelievably dry at this point. I'm sure the squirrels will be raiding the barn until it's all gone. I'll also put some out for the wild rabbits that hang around the house.

Leftovers after the juice is pressed out. They’re unbelievably dry at this point. I’m sure the squirrels will be raiding the barn until it’s all gone. I’ll also put some out for the wild rabbits that hang around the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just put some apple bars in the oven and I’ll share the recipe if it turns out well since it’s a new one for me!

There’s rarely anything that goes to waste on our farm.  This does NOT end the canning season either!!!!  I killed a really nice 7-point buck yesterday and the hams will be cubed and canned early in the next week.

Our chestnut season is over though and we sold 35+ pounds of those this week and saved about 10 pounds for ourselves to snack on.

The chestnuts were few this year but the ones we picked up were huge and so sweet.

The chestnuts were few this year but the ones we picked up were huge and so sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time. . . .

Crazy Month of May, the First Chapter

I don’t even know where to begin. My daughter and I decided to have an Estate/Yard sale and for the entire month, we gathered, took pictures, priced, organized and prepared for the largest yard sale I’ve ever seen that was for one family. Of course, it was four generations of collections of one family, the Caldwells. It was a history of the Caldwell family that was taking up too much space and after watching my daughter dealing with my mother-in-laws estate and the clean-out of her house,  I decided I would not do that to my children after I’m gone.

We cleaned out my house, the Mansion, and the remains of what Heather and her Dad cleaned out of her grandmother’s “stuff” and had our sale on Saturday. It included, antiques from three or four generations ago, household items from our home, Heather’s home, my husband’s grandmother and aunt & uncle, and his grandfather and great-grandfather, tools, and we filled three entire rooms of the Mansion, the front  porch and the yard.

We advertised on Facebook, our personal email contacts and asked everyone to share the details. We did really well and I was blessed to see so many old friends and acquaintances including my Dad’s best friend, Bobby Rose.  What a treat to have him here on the farm.  There’s a wonderful family story behind this which I will share at a later date.

We worked the sale with the help of a very special friend, JoAnn, my granddaughter and one of her best friends.  We were too busy to take pictures during the day but I will share a few pictures of the treasures that left the farm.

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Wood cookstove in excellent  shape.

Wood cookstove in excellent shape.

Antique churn

Antique churn

Old toys

Old toys

quilts

quilts

Box after box of bottles, jars, insulators.

Box after box of bottles, jars, insulators.

Tool sharpener

Tool sharpener

Pottery

Pottery

Stoves of all sorts but we only sold two.  We still have propane, wood, wood/coal stoves.

Stoves of all sorts but we only sold two. We still have propane, wood, wood/coal stoves.

Bowl & pitcher

Bowl & pitcher

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This is just a teeny-tiny bit of what left the farm.  The rooms of the house were as full as we could get them.  It was a beautiful day and the cleanup has begun!!

Sugar Time at Caldwell Farms

You know spring is really on it’s way when the Caldwell family fires up the sugar house and loads the maple trees with sap buckets.  Eddie and I tapped our maple trees last week with the awesome help of our son, Shawn.  It was a spur of a moment decision because of the unpredictable weather situation.  We tapped fourteen trees with 1-5 buckets depending on the size and condition of the tree.

Sugar maple tree with tap

Sugar maple tree with tap

This is one of the sugar maples in our front yard that provides us with plenty of maple sap in the spring and glorious shade in the hot summers.

This is one of the sugar maples in our front yard that provides us with plenty of maple sap in the spring and glorious shade in the hot summers.  This tree held five buckets this spring.

We gather the sap every two hours so by the time we had all of the taps drilled, plugged and a bucket hung on them it was time for Shawn to start making the rounds to each of the trees.  The sap was running like a heavily dripping faucet and soon the buckets were running over.  We had a total of 52 buckets hung and we hauled it in milk cans from the trees back to the 210 gallon storage tank.  The tank was filled well past the holding mark giving us about 225 total gallons of sap in 2 1/2 days.  On Tuesday afternoon we pulled the taps and buckets, cleaned them and put them away for another year.

These are some of the tools we use to start the process of making maple syrup.

These are some of the tools we use to start the process of making maple syrup.

Stock water tank holds 210 gallon at the top ridge of the tank.

Stock water tank holds 210 gallon at the top ridge of the tank.

At this point we stored the tank full of sap in our garage where it would stay below 40* until we were ready to make the syrup and would be okay for 10-12 days as long as it stayed cold.  We now waited for weather that was cool, dry and not too windy to fire up the sugar house.

On Friday, Eddie hauled in the firewood to use for the fire.  It had to be dry and a sturdy wood that would stay really hot.  We had a stockpile of old locust post that came from replaced fencing on the farm so he brought in two loads and placed them on top of three other posts laid out on the ground to keep the wood dry in the event it rained again before we started the fire.

Friday night we made the decision to make the syrup while we had at least one good day.  I emailed the kids and we set the syrup vat on the fire pit. The syrup vat is a stainless steel vat with four sections.

Cooking tank has four sections. The first two on the right have a opening so that the sap runs from one side to the other. The next section is the first thickening section and the narrow section on the far left is the last section before straining off. The pain has grown dark over the last few years and each year our syrup gets a little darker and sweeter.

Cooking tank has four sections. The first two on the right have a opening so that the sap runs from one side to the other. The next section is the first thickening section and the narrow section on the far left is the last section before straining off. The pain has grown dark over the last few years and each year our syrup gets a little darker and sweeter.

We put the vat on the firepit around 9:00 p.m. Friday night and we thought we had everything ready. The sawed up fence posts were in the pit along with kindling and we don’t put the sap in until right before lighting the fire.  (Don’t want no varmints sucking up the water or worse walking through it.  The lights for working in the dark first thing in the morning were set up and ready.  The hose was hooked up to the tank, buckets in place, and all we had to do was try to get a good nights sleep because it was going to be a long day.

The next morning Eddie got up at 5:00 a.m. and got the vat filled with sap, started the fire and when I got out of bed at 6:00 I could see the steam coming out from under the sugarhouse roof.  It had been cooking good for about half an hour and Eddie was going to add more sap and the waterhose from the storage tank to the vat was froze.  We were really doing some hustling trying to unthaw it.  First he tried a small propane torch but that didn’t work and would have melted the hose.  Then we tried running hot water from the house to the hose and that didn’t work.  Finally we ran straight hot water into the hose, whipped it against the ground to beat up the slush and ice in the hose and finally after thirty minutes and almost scorching the syrup in the pans it broke free.  At this point we filled the vat sections quickly again but this time we kept the hose off the ground by placing it on several milkcans from the garage to the sugar house.

The sugar house sits down over the hill from the garage about 50 feet and it was warmer down there than it was up the hill at the garage.

The sugar house sits down over the hill from the garage about 50 feet and it was warmer down there than it was up the hill at the garage.

After this things went pretty quickly and I left him to go to Covington at 9:00 to visit my younger brother.  This was a short trip because he wouldn’t get out of bed and didn’t want to talk.  I got back home a lot sooner than I expected and our daughter, Heather, had joined her Dad around 10:30 and things were going pretty good.  Only about 75 gallons of sap had gone through the vats during my absense but I had about two gallons of syrup to strain and process.  It was beautiful and so sweet.  You have to remember though that when we collect that sap from the trees it looks and tastes like clear water.

First pot off the firepit and it's ready to strain once more, heat to boiling and put in the sterilized jars to seal.

First pot off the firepit and it’s ready to strain once more, heat to boiling and put in the sterilized jars to seal.

Cheesecloth for straining the syrup. I use about four layers of cloth when I strain the syrup and it's strained twice once it's cooked. We also use a bucket with a straining net to pour it in the storage tank.

Cheesecloth for straining the syrup. I use about four layers of cloth when I strain the syrup and it’s strained twice once it’s cooked. We also use a bucket with a straining net to strain from the tapping buckets and pour it in the storage tank.

Regular and wide mouth jar lids

Regular and wide mouth jar lids

Sterlized pint jars

Sterlized pint jars

We had a very successful day ending up with 53 pint jars and 6 quarts.  We’ll sell the pints for $8 and the quarts for $12.

Pints and quarts of heavenly fresh maple syrup.

Pints and quarts of heavenly fresh maple syrup.

Caldwell Farm labels include the date made and the ingredients.  We do not add any preservatives or other sugars.

Caldwell Farm labels include the date made and the ingredients. We do not add any preservatives or other sugars.

Here’s some of the pictures shared throughout the day.

Frosty morning started at 29* at 6:00 a.m.

Frosty morning started at 29* at 6:00 a.m.

At times the steam in the cool air made it impossible to see what was going on in the vat.

At times the steam in the cool air made it impossible to see what was going on in the vat.

Boiling maple sap to scrumptious maple syrup.

Boiling maple sap to scrumptious maple syrup.

Our daughter Heather after a steamy day of fun!

Our daughter Heather after a steamy day of fun!

Mr. Caldwell considers himself the "sugar monster" at the end of the day.

Mr. Caldwell considers himself the “sugar monster” at the end of the day.

Jared and Crystal joined in the afternoon. This was Crystals first trip to the farm and she also got to feed the baby calf, Miracle.

Jared and Crystal joined in the afternoon. This was Crystals first trip to the farm and she also got to feed the baby calf, Miracle.

Jared hanging out in the sugar house.

Jared hanging out in the sugar house.

End result!

End result!

Sassy guarding the woodpile from mice and voles.

Sassy guarding the woodpile from mice and voles.

Undescribable smell in the air!

Undescribable smell in the air!

Vats are full and boiling.

Vats are full and boiling.

Boiling sap almost maple syrup.

Boiling sap almost maple syrup.

He's stays busy during the entire process.

He’s stays busy during the entire process.

Sugar Monster fueling the fire.

Sugar Monster fueling the fire.

Crystal and Jared enjoying the day.

Crystal and Jared enjoying the day.

Jared and Eddie catching up on everything and planning their spring gobbler season.

Jared and Eddie catching up on everything and planning their spring gobbler season.

Red hot coals from old locust posts keep things hot and sap boiling from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Red hot coals from old locust posts keep things hot and sap boiling from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

The steam makes the whole area smell like maple syrup.

The steam makes the whole area smell like maple syrup.

Firepit in sugar house

Firepit in sugar house

Our granddaughter, Victoria, and her new beau joined at the end of the evening just in time for french toast and sausages.  Fun and hard work was had by all!

 

Family visit with cousins

Vada is my and her Grandpa's little duck!

Vada is my and her Grandpa’s little duck!

What a very blessed Saturday I experienced with some cousins of my hubby! On May 15, 2014, his only surviving paternal aunt passed away. Peggy Ann was such a beautiful woman and I considered her a friend because she welcomed me into the family with open arms the first time I ever met her as did her husband, Dickie. Peggy Ann and Dickie lived in Lanexa, Virginia and have two children, Stuart III and Teresa. I’ve never met Teresa unfortunately but Stuart and his beautiful wife, Debra, have become very special to me and have been to the farm previously. They have a 28-year-old son, Stuart IV, and daughters, Heather, Dana and Brianne.  Heather and Dana had not been here before and were anxious to meet us and see where they’re grandmother was raised along with four other generations.
On Saturday, all of the family except for Teresa and Bri, but including two special son-in-laws and four grandchildren, caravan to Craig County to memorialize Peggy Ann and spread her ashes on her beloved mountain on the family farm which connects to our farm. This was the first time that me and Eddie had met Heather and Dana and their children. Our daughter and granddaughter joined us shortly after they arrived.
We spent the day with four of the most adorable kids and one being a seven month (I think) little girl by the name of Vada but I’ve nicknamed Ducky. I was in heaven!!

Dana, "Ducky" and myself

Dana, “Ducky” and myself

L J wrestling a huge bale of hay.

L J wrestling a huge bale of hay.

Lavar, Kenny, Ducky and Dana climbing the mountain.

Lavar, Kenny, Ducky and Dana climbing the mountain.

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2015-11-21 069This is Vada and her daddy, Kenny!  She never fussed the entire time she was here and took the cold on the mountain like a champ.

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Cousin Stuart was thrilled to be able to share the farm with his kids, son-in-laws, and grandchildren and they all visited the house that his mom grew up in.  It’s still standing and they’re hoping to fix it up a little and be able to come and camp out whenever they want.

Keep in mind looking at this photo that my husband is not a baby person. He's always afraid they would break. I think he got a little attached to this little munchkin!

Hubby is not a great champion to babies and never was but I think he fell in love with Vada and she him!

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He doesn’t let just anyone wear his hats!!

Victoria and Heather, my granddaughter and daugher , we in on the visit too. Victoria was ready to go deer hunting.

Victoria and Heather, my granddaughter and daughter , were in on the visit too. Victoria was dressed to go deer hunting but never made it to her deer stand.

Eddie and Dana topping the mountain.

Eddie and Dana topping the mountain.

Linden and Heather on the mountain.

Linden and Heather on the mountain.  Heather has three children, two boys and a girl.

Before they trekked to the mountain in the cold to spread Aunt Peggy’s ashes they all got to visit the animals, check out the cellar, hives and sugar house after we had a small lunch.

This was a day I will never forget and am so looking forward to a return visit very soon.

First Meal with Son and his fiancee

This is another late post but better late than never!

My beautiful first-born has had a lot of exciting things happening to him in the last couple years.

Shawn was the little tiny thing born in 1973 at 6 pounds 4 ounces and the new love of my life in June 1973.

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He grew up way too fast and we are so very, very proud of him.  He took a new job in Christiansburg a couple of years ago after receiving his Bachelors Degree in Engineering.  Soon after met the love of his life, Jennie Malone.

Recently got a very nice promotion, bought a new truck, bought a house AND got engaged.

Shawn & Jennie 2014

Shawn & Jennie 2014

Last month Jen’s mom and sister came for a visit with them and the newly engaged couple invited the family to a cookout at their new home and to meet Jen’s sister, Cynthia.  We had met her mother, Barbara, last fall when she came to visit and they brought her to the farm.  She and I hit it off right away and she’s a genuinely lovely person.

Eddie, myself, Heather and her husband, Joel met at the new house which they had put together after moving in within a month.  I was really proud of all they had done and organized in such quick fashion.  Eddie was very impressed with their new home and even more impressed that Shawn had a place all his own and not renting.

Anyway, back to the cookout, Shawn was the chef and I’m sad to say I didn’t get any pictures of that but what a spread they put out.  He has become the “Grill Master” and all he needed was a chef’s hat!! We had chicken which had been marinated in a special sauce that Jen got from another chef (I believe),  we had hotdogs, hamburgers and all the sides you could imagine and we pigged out.  Everything was so good!!

Then came the homemade peach tart that Jen made that morning which was great.  She loves making tarts.  I had picked up a strawberry short-cake on the way to their home (horrible) and she had also made another strawberry dessert that I didn’t get the name of.  Heather had made some of her divine deviled eggs and everything was delicious.

Dessert table at family cookout.  This is my son's fiancée Jennie helping me decide which to take.  We took all!

Dessert table at family cookout. This is my son’s fiancée Jennie helping me decide which to take. We took all!

Shawn’s best friend joined us and a good time was had by all.  There was lots of laughter, touring of the new home and relaxing on their huge deck on the back of the house.  We ate until we couldn’t move and there goes the weight loss program I’ve been working on again!!

We’ve all been invited back and looking forward to it!

Mother’s Day 2014

Mother’s Day was a whirlwind of activity.  My son and daughter came early and spent the entire day with us.  I also had friends from the office join us for lunch and we visited the babies, picked asparagus, walked a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the day.  The day started for me at 6:00 a.m. and everyone was gone by 5:30.  Then,  hubby Sassy and I enjoyed some quiet time.
Heather and Shawn bought me beautiful cards and a push mower for the yard which I’ve wanted for two years and was going to buy in June.  It’s part of my new weightloss program.
New toy from my daughter.

New toy from my daughter.

Mother's Day card from my son.

Mother’s Day card from my daughter.

Mother's Day card from my daughter.

Mother’s Day card from my son.

Eddie made me a beautiful hanging flower table out of a old wagon wheel and bought flowers to go on it.  He had to have the kids help him hang it in the yard while I was preparing lunch for our other guests.  I absolutely love it and never thought for a minute he would re-purpose something like this.  I may be rubbing off on him! 😉
Antique saw blade will be inserted in the center of the table.

Antique saw blade will be inserted in the center of the table.

Antique wagon wheel re-purposed into a hanging flower table.

Antique wagon wheel re-purposed into a hanging flower table.

Not only did he build the table for me but he loaded it with plants that I’ll repot as soon as the cold snap passes this weekend.  He also went to the woods and brought me this beautiful bouquet of trillium.  The blossoms are so delicate and elegant, don’t you think?

Trillium from the woods behind the house.

Trillium from the woods behind the house.

They adorned our kitchen table where I served our guest and my family their lunch.  We’re going to try to transplant some to my shaded flower gardens later this week or next.  Hopefully with all the shade they’ll think they’re in the woods and thrive.  He also got me a beautiful card and all of my cards made me cry!!  I am so loved.

Hubby's card for my day!!

Hubby’s card for my day!!

To top the day, one of our gielbiev cows delivered a calf which was perfect for Mother’s Day.
 
I hope your Mother’s Day was as wonderful as mine.

Flicker back on my blog

After some searching and trying, reading and experimenting and finally asking the right questions, I got my Flicker widget to work on my blog. I hope everyone enjoys the photos I’ve uploaded and will continue to upload.  The widget is to the left of this post and will look a little like what I pasted below.

 

Widget Flickr

My Photo Album

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All you have to do is click on a photo and you’ll be taken to my Flicker website.  I’ll also be adding more photos throughout the year to my photo page which is found in the title bar at the top of my blog.  Hope you enjoy looking through them as much as I did when choosing what to put out here.

My New Family Room

Now that the addition on the house is no longer a bedroom but a family room I’m working on creating a cozy family room.  It’s not a large space but it allows us to entertain in a cooler environment away from the wood stove in the main living area.    I want to keep it warm, friendly, country and “my style” and will turn the main living area into a man-cave type decor so that all of hubby’s friends that visit can sit around comfortably and admire his trophies and talk of old times.  The man really is a hunter first and farmer second.   The man-cave reveal will be in another post and today I’ll show what I have to work with and what I have completed so far.

It's a long narrow room with lots of light.

It’s a long narrow room with lots of light.

Exterior door that's not used much in the winter but open a lot in warm weather.

Exterior door that’s not used much in the winter but open a lot in warm weather.

This room is right off the kitchen with a large closet on the left that will store our winter coats and outer apparel of our guests.

This room is right off the kitchen with a large closet on the left that will store our winter coats and outer apparel of our guests.

There are two small windows on the south wall that let in lots of light.

There are two small windows on the south wall that let in lots of light.

Most all of that furniture has been removed and I’ve done the following arrangements for now.  I want to add lots of seating that’s easily arranged so that when little brother comes for weekend visits I can bring out a fold away bed or futon.

Clean walk through to kitchen.

Clean walk through to kitchen.

Entertainment center with lots of shelving and little nooks.

Entertainment center with lots of shelving and little nooks.

Seating for three so far.

Seating for three so far.

Shelving for our huge assortment of DVD's.

Shelving for our huge assortment of DVD’s.

Simple and warm but wait until I add my country touch to everything.

Simple and warm but wait until I add my country touch to everything.DSCN4697

View into room from kitchen.
View into room from kitchen.

 

Some rugs and wall decor makes a world of difference.  I want to add a futon or small sleep sofa and some hassocks because when the whole family is here, we need the seating.  Not too bad for  a country girl using hand me downs and years of family treasures!

 

2013 Was A Rough Year For Me

This is going to be a digest version of my life since 2007.  My mom passed away in November of that year and my dad has been gone since August of 1992.  When mom passed away I inherited my younger brother who is now 54, soon to be 55 years of age.  He was born with a disease called PKU and is intellectually disabled.  Me and my wonderful husband had told Mom before she passed that we would take care of him for as  long as we could.  We had some help from my siblings for a while but over the last four years not as much.  I began to worry about what would happen if something happened to me and I did not want my husband to continue to be his caregiver though he has done quite an incredible job since 2007.  I work full-time and hubby runs a 500+ acre beef cattle farm which is also a full-time job.

Though little brother is very easy-going and not a lot of trouble, his physical and mental needs are growing which led me to the decision that I would need further help from my siblings or I would have to find a care facility that would better suit his and our needs.  The siblings decided they could not take him into their homes so in June I began looking into an intermediate care facility. This is no easy nor quick task because there are so few facilities and to get him accepted he had to be on Medicaid.  He was already drawing social security from our Dad.  I spent six months of the last year trying to find just the right place and TRYING to get Medicaid.  Not looking for a facility that looked like a hospital or nursing home was my first challenge.  I won’t go into all the details but if any of you see something like this in your future, don’t wait.  Start the procedure now and be patient because dealing with the government is not a simple task when obtaining Medicaid and it’s looks like there lots of options around but they are either full, don’t except Medicaid or any number of other obstacles.  We were not financially capable to pay for the change ourselves.

Little brother was very excited and anxious to move into a new place almost as much as we were.  We found what I think is the perfect new home for him.  There are only eight other residents in the facility and they have equal counselors/staff on premises 24/7.  The facility itself is beautiful with several gathering rooms for the residents.  Each resident has a roommate that share very nice, large rooms, closet for each and share a huge bathroom.  They all have their own TV’s in their rooms as well as desks/seating areas to color, play games, work puzzles, and that type thing.  Everyday they have a schedule which includes meals, entertainment, schooling, chores and personal care.  There is a nurse on call everyday and a van is provided that takes them to Day Skills school Monday through Friday all year-long.  The facility has a doctor that visits the residents on a monthly basis and more specialists that tend to their every need.  He moved into the facility on January 20th, 2014 and loves it.

Little brother seems quite content and I call him every other night to check on him.  Once a week they go bowling, have music night once a week and he has been able to pull out his guitar to entertain and sing and on Sunday night they have an hour of bible lessons.  Plans are in the works to actually teach him some chords on his guitar.  He is participating with the Special Olympics basketball team.  He has been to the Kazim Shrine’s Circus this month but think the noise got to him there.

In addition to all the fun and learning he is involved in, the staff has been able to get him to see a dentist, had his hearing checked and his eyes checked.  He has been to a lab twice for blood work.  All of these things I could never convince him to do but I think their staff has a real knack for getting these things done plus the fact that he goes with the other residents that have these regular tests.   Medical needs that I was not aware of are being met and I know now that he is in a better situation than he was with me.  I do miss him very much but we talk real often and I go visit a couple of times a month or more.  Weather has prevented me from going in the last week but he will see me next week.

He made me this for Valentines Day

My Valentine heart that Dean made for me.

My Valentine heart that Dean made for me.

and gave it to me week before last and he has told me he made me and my daughter a Valentine.  Here’s a couple of pictures of him in his new home:

Deans side of the room that he decorated with help from the staff.

Deans side of the room that he decorated with help from the staff.

Dean and his roommate Kevin.

Dean and his roommate Kevin.

He has his own TV and video stand.

He has his own TV and video stand.

He gave us a tour of the dining room where he likes to help prepare for meals by setting the table, pouring their drinks and cleaning up after meals.  He never did that at my house!!  ;)

He gave us a tour of the dining room where he likes to help prepare for meals by setting the table, pouring their drinks and cleaning up after meals. He never did that at my house!! 😉

 

It’s been a bit of a challenge for hubby and I getting used to being home alone again.  I think we’ll all be very happy!

The Pedalboat

We have a beautiful pond in front of the yard and it’s full of fish.  It’s deepest part is about eight feet, I think.  On good days when there’s not pollen and it not cloudy you can see the fish swimming around.  We have perch, bass and blue gill in the pond.  We also have some massive carp to keep the pond clean.

Picnic table and boat house full of fishing gear.

Picnic table and boat house full of fishing gear.

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I love the gazebo but my favorite part of the pond is riding around in our pedalboat.  Hubby bought it for me for Mother’s Day a few years ago.  Last year we didn’t bring it out of storage but this year we did and I had high hopes of spending a good deal of time in it reading and relaxing.

All cleaned up and ready to float.

All cleaned up and ready to float.

It seats four comfortably and can seat three up front and two in the back.  There's cup holders built in and a cubby hole in the back for books, towels, food, drinks.

It seats four comfortably and can seat three up front and two in the back. There’s cup holders built in and a cubby hole in the back for books, towels, food, drinks.

Well, I haven’t been it but once since we brought it out of storage and that was to empty the rain water out of it so it wouldn’t sink.  It’s been horrible boating weather even on a small pond.  It has a lovely canopy that goes over the top to shade you from the rays of the sun.

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With tomorrow being the first day of August I’m hopeful that the sun will be seen more and we can play on the pond as we have in the past.

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shawn fishing IMG_0046 (2)

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Quiet weekend

This time last Saturday we were all preparing for a 40th birthday for my baby boy!    First there was the outside preparation of mowing, setting up games, cleaning up the paddle boat, most of which my hubby and my daughter did while I was at work.

Balloons in place

Balloons in place

Seating for everyone.

Seating for everyone.

Yard is mowed and gazebo ready for party.

Yard is mowed and gazebo ready for party.

BIG 4 0!!!

BIG 4 0!!!

 

Saturday arrives and we’re doing last minute things at the farm.  Heather goes to Roanoke to pick up the birthday cake and pick up the hotdog and hamburger buns I forgot the day before.  The cake is designed to show the past and the present.  Shawn had so many superheroes when he was growing up and it was appropriate that the new Superman movie opened this year the week of his birthday.  He just graduated with a Masters in Civil Engineering from Old Dominion University in Norfolk Virginia.  He’s had his associate’s degree for quite some time and finally decided it was time to work on the other.  We are all so very proud of him!!

Spiderman throwing his web over Old Dominion University.  Spidey was Shawn superhero when growing up and he just graduated from ODU with a Masters in Civil Engineering.

Spiderman throwing his web over Old Dominion University. Spidey was Shawn superhero when growing up and he just graduated from ODU with a Masters in Civil Engineering.

 

The CAKE!

The CAKE!

 

Birthday banner.

Birthday banner.

 

Plenty of cold drinks on hand.

Plenty of cold drinks on hand.

Now, all of the guests have arrived and here’s some pictures of the birthday party, guests, games and more!

Plenty of cold drinks on hand.

Plenty of cold drinks on hand.

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Shawns 40th blowout

Volley ball was a big hit as was badminton.

Volley ball was a big hit as was badminton.

Victoiria and Jason enjoyed themselves.

Victoiria and Jason enjoyed themselves.

Keith & KIm, Matt, Tim and Jason, all friends of Shawns and work mates.

Keith & KIm, Matt, Tim and Jason, all friends of Shawns and work mates.

Shawn and Christine join Shannon and Lisa for the meal.

Shawn and Christine join Shannon and Lisa for the meal.

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Shannon and Lisa meet Christine for the first time, I think!

Shannon and Lisa meet Christine for the first time, I think!

Shawn & Christine wait for the guests and point to the parking.

Shawn & Christine wait for the guests and point to the parking.

Dad and Mom enjoy the festivities too!  Our little boy is all grown up!

Dad and Mom enjoy the festivities too! Our little boy is all grown up!

Dean, my baby brother that lives with us, even joined the festivities.  He doesn't like crowds.

Dean, my baby brother that lives with us, even joined the festivities. He doesn’t like crowds.

Vicotoria was my photographer.

Vicotoria was my photographer.

Hubby was the chef!!

Hubby was the chef!!

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And a few more pictures of the evening.

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This is a family friend that joined us.  Jimmy watched Shawn grow up right along with us!DSCN3893

 

Waiting for his guests to arrive!!

Kevin & Tim

Keith, Christine, Kevin & Tim

Off to see Annabelle

Off to see Annabelle

Kevin Shannon and Shawn

Jason, Shannon and Shawn

Now it’s time for the wonderful slide show that Christine prepared.  She used 155 photos I sent her along with some of her own and made a history of Shawn’s life from birth to the present.  I got so emotional watching him grow up all over again.  Shawn and I both cried at the end and ended up in hugging each other so tight and crying like babies.  Christine did a wonderful job and Tim set up the movie screen for us.  I’ll never forget the show for the rest of my life and am tearing up now just talking about it.  It’s just so hard to believe he’s 40 years old.   On with the cake!!

The CAKE!

The CAKE!

Waiting for the cake

Waiting for the cake

The cake is lit!

The cake is lit!

 

Does he have enough to blow out 40 candles???

Does he have enough to blow out 40 candles???

Keith, Kim, Matt, Tim & Ellen eating birthday cake!

Keith, Kim, Matt, Tim & Ellen eating birthday cake!

And now the end of the party grows near and Shawn HAS TO HAVE fireworks!!

 

 

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Fireworks last about 30 minutes.

Fireworks last about 30 minutes.

The sky was lit up!!

The sky was lit up!!

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The fireworks at the end of the night were awesome!!

The fireworks at the end of the night were awesome!!

 

And we couldn’t possibly end the evening without Victoria lighting up the group with sparklers!!

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Victoria with some heavy duty sparklers.

Victoria with some heavy duty sparklers.

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At 10:30 everyone started helping clean up the aftermath, hugging and promising to come back to the farm real soon and going home!!  I think it’s a party/birthday that Shawn will never forget!!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY BOY!!!  Mama loves you!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

I just want to wish everyone a very blessed Thanksgiving!  My home computer is still down and the reason I haven’t posted or responded to your posts.  Hopefully back up soon and playing catch up!!

I am thankful for my beautiful family, my friends, my job, the bounty God has provided us and I hope you all are as equally blessed as I am!!

Until next time!!

Thanksgiving dinner 2011-after everyone is finished eating.

Thanksgiving dinner 2011-after everyone is finished eating.

Rita

I been sick!!

Wow, look how long it’s been since I did a post!!  I want to apologize for being absent!  I took a sinus infection on the 16th of September and was out of work for a whole week.  I’m still only running on 60% power and get tired easy.  I seem to take these things at least once a year and I’m so tired of it.  We can’t find one trigger that brings them on but I sure wish they would go away FOREVER!!   The pressure in my face this time was unreal and caused a headache that lasted for four days.  I would hold both of my hands on top of my head when I coughed to keep the top from blowing off.  The doctor put me on 1000 mgs of amoxicillin on Wednesday the 19th twice a day for ten days and I was using Maximum Strength Mucinex for the congestion but had a really bad reaction to it on Sunday evening.   I don’t think I’ll be taking it again.  Hot wet compresses on my face helped at times and the heating pad on top of my head helped the headache at times.  I used a half a bottle of saline solution up my nose.  Nothing seemed to help!  I am such a wimp when it comes to this stuff and I never seem to take a mild case!  I used two whole rolls of toilet paper and two large boxes of Puffs tissues the first two days of the mess.  I was scared to death it was going to cause what would be my SECOND case of vertigo and this was my reasoning for going to the doctor early!  VERTIGO IS A MEAN TRICK ON THE BODY AND SOUL!!!

Anyway, I’m back to work  and feeling better.  I can’t wait to go out on the farm to see the new babies.  I’m looking forward to bow season and I’m hoping to start a new quilt this weekend.  The chestnuts are falling, the English walnuts have all fell, the black walnuts are falling, the pears are falling and the apples are falling.

 

Baskets of chestnuts – think I’ll roast some this year before the deer get all of them!

 

Fresh apples breakfast, lunch and supper.

 

End of the tomato crop but great mater sandwiches!

Yesterday when I got home  the chickens had made a huge mess in the yard (because someone left the gate open) and I have a bunch of mulch to rake back around the roses and  flower gardens.  I think hubby was ready to butcher all of them!!!

Chickens and mulch don’t make for a pretty picture!!

 

Of course, it didn’t help that while he was working with a neighbor to cut corn that the cows decided to widen a missed hole in the fence and now the fall and winter herds are all together. Hopefully, we’ll get them all separated this weekend.   I REALLY  think it’s time for hubby to take a weeks vacation with friends away from the farm!!  He doesn’t do well when I get sick and everything aggravates him ten times worse.

Everyone stay well and I’m back with more stories and pictures!!

My baby brother

Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a rare condition in which a baby is born without the ability to properly break down an amino acid called phenylalanine. Phenylketonuria (PKU) is inherited, which means it is passed down through families. Both parents must pass on the defective gene in order for a baby to have the condition. This is called an autosomal recessive trait. Babies with PKU are missing an enzyme called phenylalanine hydroxylase, which is needed to break down an essential amino acid called phenylalanine. The substance is found in foods that contain protein. Without the enzyme, levels of phenylalanine and two closely-related substances build up in the body. These substances are harmful to the central nervous system and cause brain damage.

Now you may wonder why I would start a post with all this medical jargon. Almost five years ago, my youngest brother came to live with me when my Mom passed away. You see, he was born with PKU and my other siblings could not take him in and none of us wanted him put in an assisted living facility. He is very capable of taking care of himself in many ways but has to be reminded of when and sometime how to do things. If you sat in a room with him you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong with him.

He is 52 years old and healthy. He loves watching TV, riding in the mountains, talking about bear hunting and he is an avid Dale Earnhardt JR fan. His days are spent (mostly) in his room watching television, coloring and “writing” in his notebooks. On very warm days you’ll find him outside sitting on the porch watching for wildlife with the binoculars or riding his “big green tractor” (lawnmower without mowing deck) all over the farm. He has wonderful stories to tell me when I get home in the afternoon. Most of the stories have some added imagination.

The main reason he needs to be with us is because he can’t prepare meals for himself except for lunch (he has his everyday favorite peanut butter and apple butter sandwich). He has to be reminded to straighten his room and bathe. He makes his bed every morning and fixes his cup of coffee before retiring to the recliner to watch TVLand all day. When he first came to live with us, my husband had a small suite built onto the back of the house just for him. He has a sitting area and sleeping area and he calls it his apartment. He has a huge assortment of movie dvd’s and when he’s bored with TV he watches the movies. His exercise consists of going to the bathroom or going to the table to eat. He’s convinced himself that too much walking with cause his knee to go out which it has several times but only when he was working in the yard when Mom was alive.

There are several health issues we may face with him in the future but for now he is doing fine and refuses to see doctors of any kind. We are fortunate in the fact that he is healthy. He doesn’t require any special attention but does need to be checked on during the day and this has come to bear on my husbands shoulders since he’s home being the full time farmer and I have to work to have health insurance (enough about us).

This is just another fascinating facet of my life on the farm!

The Age of Loss

I realized last night and thought about it coming to work today of all the losses in my life.  I lost my youngest brother when I was six years old to pneumonia and he was eight months old.  I’ve lost my grandparents and some very special uncles. I lost both of my parents to brain cancer.  Just recently and over the last three or four years I’ve lost some very close friends.  I’m amazed at how many friends I have that are widows and they are all my age.  I worry that they may have financial difficulties if they don’t have their homes and vehicles paid for, that they may not have family close by, that they will have an empty void in their lives because that spouse is gone.  I can’t begin to imagine what they are going through.  I feel very fortunate and blessed that I have my husband and kids close to home.

I feel like I take advantage of the fact that I have a husband and close friends with me daily.  It makes me wonder, do I appreciate this man enough?  Do I tell him enough how much he means to me and how much I love him?  Do I appreciate all he does for me every day?  Do I know him well enough after forty years together?   This goes for my friends too, do I tell them or show them how much I appreciate their being a part of my life?  Maybe, maybe I need to show him and everyone more often and in better ways?  I’ll work on that.

I met my husband 40+ years ago when he dated my sister a couple times and they parted ways but he and I became close friend and six months later we married.  He gave me a home, companionship, my two beautiful children and also gave a home to my handicapped brother when my mom passed away.  Not many men I know would have taken on that burden.  He’s taught me to respect and love the outdoors and hunting.  He’s taught me so much about farming and living off the land as he was taught.  I’m not saying he’s perfect but he is a perfect fit for me!!  He is the reason, I believe, that I am the woman I am today.  I don’t think I would change a thing in my life if I could go back EXCEPT change the closeness I use to have with my siblings.

BUT,  life is good and I do love my family and friends very much!!  (Note: This photo is 10 years ago but he’s my sweetheart!!)