Friday, December 28, 2012

Cow Shed

We have a couple of old sheds on our property. We weren’t sure what to call them - barn, shed, lean-to? One of them, we thought, would be worth repairing. It is more of a small pole barn, but we call it the cow shed. Even though we don't have any cows yet, we're hopeful. 

So we enlisted the help of a friend and handyman and he’s been working diligently on his own for the past couple of weeks. It wasn’t square or level, and some panels on the roof were missing. We’re not sure what we’ll use it for, but it’s a solid shed now. The only thing left to repair (or replace) is the rusty pipe fencing around it.

Before: cow shed with the rusty fencing

Before: cow shed leaning to the right

Before: the back of the cow shed


After: cow shed square and level with new cedar posts

Another small barn but not worth repairing

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Cards

We enjoy sending Christmas cards each year. But I must admit, I’m relieved when I get them all in the mailbox. Then I can enjoy Christmas.

With family and friends in the US and UK our mailing list could be extensive. So over the years, the criteria (with a few exceptions) would be if we saw someone regularly, we wouldn’t send them a card. My reasoning is, after all, if we see them regularly we can wish them a Merry Christmas in person.

In recent years we’ve tried to include a family photo. Sometimes it’s quite a challenge, because we don’t use a professional photographer. Usually I scour photos taken during the year and choose one that’s suitable. It could be one from a family holiday or wedding. One of my favorites was the year it was a photo taken at Chipotle.

So this year, we decided to take a photo on Thanksgiving, specifically for our Christmas card. After we filled ourselves at the dinner table, we stepped outside on the back deck and took advantage of the softer late afternoon light with the autumn leaves in the background.

Luckily, Daughter has a good camera with a delay that she managed to set up on a ladder. We thought we’d add a touch of sentimentality by using Grandpa’s old blue chair, which Guv’nor sat in. Plus this year we added a couple of cute dogs.

We patiently sat and posed and took about 30 photos. In the end we got one good one.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Bedrooms

Just about the time we were getting ourselves unpacked and organized, we realized we were going to need more bedrooms. We decided that the “bonus” room upstairs would be more practical for us if there were several bedrooms and another bathroom.

We got recommendations on builders, drew up plans, and got estimates. Then we chose our contractor and started the “three week” job at the end of October, hoping to finish before Thanksgiving. In all, the work took over 30 working days to complete. We had about ten different sub-contractors on the job, several working at the same time. The saying, “twice as long and twice as much,” has been true this time.

With the extra bedrooms now complete, the race is on to get organized before Christmas.

The plan

The bonus room with all the furniture removed

The bonus room with carpet removed

The first day about 10 people arrived with supplies in three or four trucks.

This truck somehow managed to maneuver our driveway to bring drywall.

Over 40 double sheets of dry wall had to go upstairs.

The rooms framed

The rooms framed with insulation

Dry wall installer on stilts

The trim wood was stacked in the hallway for days.

New doors - 10 in all

The carpenters set up on the driveway

Finished bedroom

Finished bedroom with dormer windows

Saturday, December 15, 2012

School Bus

I couldn't pick up Daughter from school the other day so we thought we'd test out the school bus service. High School has five or six bus routes. This was her first ever experience riding a school bus. Her previous school didn't have a bus. Thankfully one of her friends was riding the same bus.

I was a little amazed that the bus could get down the county road. The bus dropped her at the gate. I watched from the front porch.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Warning: this post is not for the squeamish.

This rural living is certainly toughening us up and making us more cautious.

The other day I picked up what looked like a black bead off the dark wood floor. I was busy so I set it on the dark kitchen counter and forgot about it. When Daughter came home from school, I asked if she'd lost a bead (she makes bracelets) and told her it was on the counter. She said, "Mummy, that's not a bead. It's moving."

I didn't believe her at first and decided to set the bead in the middle of a white piece of paper. I thought it had probably just rolled which made it look like it was moving. So the next time I walked through the kitchen, the bead had moved to the edge of the paper. Closer inspection revealed tiny legs at the front of a huge body.

It only took a few minutes of internet searching to find out it was a tick. A very full tick. So at that point we quickly put it in a jar and stopped touching it. (Yes, I had been squeezing it.)

I'm still not sure why it was on the floor. But we did decide we should inspect Dog closely. We found two smaller ticks on her neck. Poor thing. We found the best way to remove one is with tweezers, pulled firmly from close to the skin.

And yes, we washed our hands good and disinfected the kitchen counter top.

Tick about the size of a coffee bean.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


We’ve had a couple of really cold nights. Freezing cold in the 20’s.

I tried to protect my hydroponic vegetables by covering them up with sheets. (I finally found a use for all those flat sheets I have.)  Guv'nor suggested picking as much lettuce as I could, which I did.

Some of the plants are looking droopy, so I think I’ve lost about half of my lettuces. We’ve had several weeks of fresh salads, so I am less concerned about them. I didn’t want to lose my cauliflower or broccoli, that were just popping out. I think they will recover.

I was glad I’d taken a few photos of everything just before the freeze.

Pre-freeze: cabbage

Pre-freeze: parsley

Pre-freeze: broccoli

Pre-freeze: carrots

Covering with sheets

Post-freeze: droopy lettuces

Post-freeze: more droopy lettuces

Post-freeze: carrots and broccoli

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


It’s looking festive around here. Town put up their annual lighted Christmas tree right in the middle of the street. I guess you can do that in a small town.

Guv’nor and the daughters worked diligently over the weekend to get a few strings of lights on the house. I’m having more sympathy for those people (I once thought too extravagant) who just throw away their lights each year and buy new ones. The amount of time spent on checking and fixing the lights would pay for the new lights, not to mention the aggravation. Still we were a little amazed that those big bulb lights worked at all considering they are about 10 years old and had spent a couple of years permanently fixed to the outside of our previous house.

But what joy when they do all work!

Unfortunately our joy was short lived. The lights (those 10 year old ones) along the roof line went out the next day. In the confusion, Guv’nor was heard saying phrases like “completely ruined”, “plugs melted”, “total waste of time”, “taking them all down”.

Meanwhile, I searched frantically online for replacements that could be delivered before Christmas. I finally found (and ordered) some commercial ones that should last us awhile. Maybe they'll arrive in time to put them up over the weekend.

My contribution was hanging a wreath and garland on the front door and wreaths on the three dormer windows.

Lighted Christmas tree in the middle of street.

Guv'nor working hard on the lights.

Double stranded fairy lights wrapped around the back deck.

Fairy lights wrapped around the front porch pillars.

My contribution: wreaths and garland

Guv'nor says: "Come quickly and see the lights while they're working."

Friday, December 7, 2012


One disadvantage to rural living is the inability to pop out shopping. Because you have to factor in the extra travel time, by the time I get to the shops I usually run out of time (and energy) to do much shopping.

So I’m learning how to shop on the internet and I am liking it. I used to only order things online that I couldn’t find in the stores. Now, I’m beginning to think first about ordering online.  This method saves time and money spent on petrol. 

Last week I did a lot of ordering online. A lot. The daughters decided to put their Christmas lists on Pinterest this year. So with a couple of clicks, presents got ordered. Some even got wrapped. At last count, I’d placed over 20 online orders. I was able to take advantage of sales and free shipping on most of them.

The orders are starting to arrive and it already feels like Christmas because by now I’ve forgotten what I’d ordered. I don’t want to give away too many secrets, so I’ll only post one photo.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


After much anticipation, autumn finally arrived in East Texas. We got some lovely shades of yellows, oranges, and browns along the way. Guv’nor especially was surprised to see all the leaves change color, and took several photos he said I could use.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Our hydroponic arugula has been ready for awhile. It’s a bit trickier to use though, so I have only picked it a couple of times. I only have it in two sections but it has grown very well. It seems to like the cold.

Arugula is similar to spinach, but tends to be a bit bitter when raw, especially the older it is. It seems to be better when it’s been steamed and wilted. So I’ve use it for making lasagna and a pasta dish - both that call for spinach.

Also, I was excited to see a few cauliflowers coming in. They’re about the size of a golf ball right now, so I’ll have to be patient.

The arugula is quite dense. I've been cutting the larger leaves.

The stems can be quite thick, so I usually only use these leaves.

Cauliflowers the size of a golf ball

Some of the lettuce has topped out and started to flower.