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  CHECKING OFF THE BUCKET LIST ~ 5 JUNE 2016  

I bought the farm... wow! I have to pinch myself, to know it's real. I've wanted a farm for a long time.

My friend Alice passed away suddenly last year- she was four years younger than me. I mourned her, but mostly felt sorry that she never got to experience the things she planned "for later". It was one of those "life moments" and with interest rates pitifully low on my savings, I decided to invest in my dream now. The 1.6 acre farm is in Eldred NY, just 5 miles from Pennsylvania in hilly country. This newsletter will serve to keep you all updated as to the progress I'm making, carving out my piece of the American dream!
To my great delight, on the day of closing, and unknown to me, my lovely, capable and fun sister Tracy showed up just a few minutes behind me- she stepped from the car with crow bar in hand and asked where do we start? Such an incredible act of generosity left me speechless, but we got right to it.

       

The house contained a (fake) stone wall surrounding the wood stove which was covered in soot and smoke stain so that's where I wanted to start. Never underestimate 2 girls with wrecking bars- we got rid of that wall in just a few hours.

         

I'm hoping to fund this project with a small Pick-Your-Own raspberry patch and since closing on the property, organizing the planting, fencing, irrigating and mulching has been my primary interest. 

         

 It takes a village...I'm especially grateful to Jim Akt and his team for rototilling this space. It wasn't an easy job- large and small rocks are everywhere. In fact, they were so cumbersome that the team had to take out the largest ones and pile them on the perimeter of the garden.

         

Thanks to the wagon Rick gave me for Christmas, I was able to clean up the rock that the rototilling team left, as well as many from the planting bed as I marked the rows. The field is still strewn with them- it will be an endless challenge to have a nice, clean planting bed. I have many uses for this cute wagon!

         

Sometime this week, Ed and his crew from Jesse G's Nursery will be installing a 7.5' fence around the planting area- I can't wait to see that- to keep out deer. And more busyness ahead with 150 raspberry bushes, 20 bales of straw (for mulching) and 15 bags of compost (for fertilizing) all being delivered on Friday. Yikes!!! (I'm soooo excited!!!!)
And on the house front, I kept working on a project that Tracy started- converting the 2 small bedrooms into one master space. She began tearing out the larger bedroom closet- I broke through the joining wall!

         

I'll be using one room as the sleeping room and the adjoining room as a walk-in closet and sitting room. It's hard to create space in a 758 sqft house, but creating the feeling of space, is something I can do. For anyone thinking I've cut out the guest room, don't worry- I'll be making a bunk room for visitors.
The farm was really pretty this week with 2 rhododendron bushes in bloom and the lawn mowed (again, thanks to the Jim Akt team) for the first time- so awesome!

         

Here's an open invitation to anyone who would like a farm experience, just for a day. Saturday June 11th, I could sure use a few hands for planting, mulching, fertilizing the raspberries. Everyone is welcome so bring a friend!  Lunch will be provided and dinner, too! RSVP if you can take the day to berr-y-fy! Thanks- Sandy

         

                                Garage sale finds. You can never have too many tools!


THE POWER OF TEAMWORK ~ 12JUNE 2016

Playing out in my head how to plant, mulch and irrigate 150 raspberry plants is a whole lot easier than
actually doing it. And it never could have happened without help from my truest and best friend Rick.
While the plants were supposed to arrive on Friday, they actually came on Thursday- with a big label
PERISHABLE -  PLANT IMMEDIATELY. It's a good thing Rick was already planning to come Friday
and when he got there, I was all set to go.

Ed and his team from Jesse's Landscaping already had the fence up by Friday. It's 7.5' tall to keep out
deer.At one point while we were inside the fence working, we noticed a deer grazing in the field out back,
and I really had to wonder if we were corralled and the deer were free! 
Plants come as rooted canes and are planted just 2 inches deep, 18" apart  in rows spaced 8' apart.
They can grow to about 5' tall- eventually- and they need sun and air  to grow the best berries- which
won't be until next year. While Rick worked on other, equally important things, I planted all 150 plants,
on my knees slowly moving down each row. The only way to keep going is to hydrate and take breaks
frequently.

Once the plants were in the ground, we gave them each a coffee can of compost for gentle fertilization
and Rick put together the drip irrigation system. The plants need 1.5" of water a week. He's very clever
and got a timer to automatically water half an inch every other day.

With the irrigation system working on auto, we were totally exhausted and had to put off mulching the
field until next week. But the straw was delivered and it adds to the "farm" feel of the landscape. (Do
you think deer eat straw and I'll come next week to find it's all gone??!! LOL)

One of the toughest things about buying a total fixer upper house is that there's no place to be
comfortable. I don't want to bring upholstered furniture into a place where sheet rock dust and
other "stuff"  would get it dirty. And not being sure where a patio or deck will go in the future,
I didn't want to invest in outdoor furniture until I am decided about the outside. But at the very
least, a picnic table would serve many uses- not the least of which a work bench for the many
projects I have planned which require a flat surface for working on so I had one delivered and
set in a spot where it is shaded part of the day.

And a bench to sit on is terrific- A place to sit out the exhaustion- which always passes. From
here I have a view of the berry patch, the house, the shed and most of the min-farm.

Did I mention there are a lot of rocks? I've been stacking some- a mason I'm not- to frame some
spontaneous art! This is an old plow I found in the weeds.

Nature contributes to the art in the landscape. Here, two pine trees are growing in an old stump and
shade loving ferns decorate the base.

I had the soil tested and the pH is "ideal" for raspberries. Well, I guess, 'cause here's an established,
wild raspberry bush already loaded with summer berries, right next to the shed.

The next plan for the house is to re-direct the main entry from the road side of the house to the
driveway side. The sliding door will be taken out, a 36" Anderson door will be installed, the door
and trim painted in a luscious green- Urban Nature- and flowers will be planted in the beds.
This may take a few weeks, but Vinnie the handyman will be installing the door this week. Here's
the before photo.

I thought this mini farm would be my time out, my vacation place. But as it turns out, I feel more like
I'm on vacation when I get home! We worked really hard to accomplish so much in just 2 days.  I said
to Rick, it's a good  thing we're doing this while we're young, I think any older and we'd have a hard time-
as we both limped off the berry patch looking for relief from achy muscles and backs
which could give out at any minute!
Let me know what you're planning for the summer- I'd love to hear your news. xoxo Sandy


SIGNS OF GROWTH ~ 19 JUNE 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 3 hours drive to the farm is all a matter of slowing down. Leaving Toms River via the Garden State
Parkway, I'm still in buzz mode with the goal to get there fast, passing on the left and zooming to
Exit 145. Then on Route 80 and north for 18 miles, I'm "driving with trucks" and focus is important-
sometimes I'm swishing past other vehicles, sometimes I'm the swishee. Finally onto Route 15 where
the speed limit is 50, then to 206 where parts are 45 MPH, through Millford at 25 MPH- finally Route 1005
where I must go 35 MPH because the road is like a snake twisting and turning through a deep forest for 8
miles.
As my driving speed slows down, so do I and I enter Eldred very relaxed and calm, eager to see what I've
missed in the past few days. Seeing that the new entry  door was NOT installed while I was gone, I go immediately to the garden- mostly to check out the weed situation (which was becoming gruesome) but I'm very surprised to see a lot of new growth on the seemingly dormant raspberry canes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The "instruction " booklet said I may not see anything for up to 3 weeks, so I was very happy. The irrigation system which was working beautifully, kept the roots moist and fostered this early growth- Rick's brilliant idea. My immediate goal was to apply the weed control- 20 bales of straw, laid thickly to choke out the weeds. Five bales was all I could do in the first afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I gave myself an extra day at the farm this week, knowing the straw would be a huge job and because Rick suggested I take some time for sight-seeing the area so I wouldn't come home so tired. The farm work I've been doing is extremely strenuous and it's been taking me 3 days to recover each week. Who knew there were so many body part which could ache?! LOL  So the next day would be time enough to do half the remaining bales and the balance the day after that, leaving me feeling good when help arrived on Saturday.
It didn't quite play out that way. With just one bale left, the plumber came by. I'd made arrangements for him and a helper to take out the existing heating system. His helper couldn't make it and he would still do the job if I would be his helper. Well, I'd never done that before and I'm always up to learn something new, so why not? Well, the "why not" has mostly to do with how many squats and deep knee bends goes along with a 2 hour session of copper pipe removal. Bending, carrying the junk outside and putting some pep into the assignment took its toll- by day's end, I felt like I had been run over by a truck! That night, I swear I heard my leg muscles screaming. But the good news is that the hot water baseboard is outta-there and the plumber cut my bill the cost of his helper! Eventually we'll have a new heat system- up-to-date AND up-to-code.
Another Saturday I may have spent the day doing nothing, but help was on the way. My sister Tracy and her fiancé Michael were coming to help with demolition on the house. They brought a lot of skill- I'm saying MAD SKILLS- and we got so much done, even though I was a bit the slacker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael is a voracious reader and expressed an interest in working outside so I thought it would be a good play-on-words to have him spread the last bale of straw. When you take the ties from the bale, it naturally brakes apart into 2-3" sections called books. So I thought this job was right up his alley.
We didn't use as much compost on the berry canes as I thought so I decided to add it to places around the farm where I could shovel it easily if/when I wanted it. Michael created a stone border to beautiful the rhododendron bush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's really amazing, and wonderful, what can be achieved by energetic people. Back to the house, where Tracy was picking up the crow bar and getting the old- and quite disgusting- kitchen top cabinets down. Here's Tracy contemplating the demo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's hard to tell, but this is much improved!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Tracy and I went to the dump (which is a whole other story for another day), Michael took down the rough sawn boards in the entry which will be opened for a bunk room. With Tracy and Michael working together- and me favoring to encourage from the sideline - they made a new doorway into the laundry room. They are sooo talented and I've got the doorway which is large enough to move a washer/dryer in and out of- really good thinking on our part! LOL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracy and Michael really did a lot more than a few handy skills. They brought back my enthusiasm for the project. It's just so great to see accomplishment- and they're fun people to be around!  Last I saw them, they were sitting at the local micro-brewery enjoying a cold one- well deserved, I assure you!
On Saturday, my neighbor had her car out near the street and all afternoon I was wondering what-the-heck? On my way home, I stopped to see what was in the car. It seems she's an excellent painter- her canvas is gourds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I come from a family of farmers, so my new hobby doesn't seem strange to me. And I'm reminded, on Father's Day, that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. My sibs and I were lucky to have a life that offered a suburban education and experience with a balance of rural living. His farm, an apple orchard in Red Hook NY was beautiful and I so appreciate that at his core, he resonated with the land. He was a thoughtful man with country values and I'm grateful that he was my Dad.
I hope you're involved with what you love to do and you're having a fabulous day! Sandy

 


ANOTHER VIEW OF FARM LIFE ~ 27 JUNE 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early morning on the farm is quiet. The sun comes up with a choir of bird song but otherwise, very quiet.
I had just 2 "big" plans for my time this week- weed the berry patch and get the bedroom and closet room ready for finishes (that's still quite a ways from furnishings. LOL). 
The growth of the berry canes is amazing. Since I go once a week for a couple of days, it's very exciting to see how much they've grown, and how fast. Some of the canes are all leafed out while some are sporting new leaves from the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The idea is that the canes I planted as dormant sticks will begin to grow canes from the roots. Even this year, while I won't be getting berries for fall harvest, the canes should grow into a 12" hedge with new canes sprouting from the roots. Several plants have already started root canes. You can see the new growth away from the original cane- that's off the root.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The straw did a wonderful job of keeping down the weeds in the walking rows but near the canes, the straw was applied thinner so the new root canes could emerge unfettered. My weeding assignment was to go down each row (4) and rake back the straw a bit and hoe out the grassy weeds. I broke it down to morning and evening on two days and the job was not too overwhelming.
I ordered an Armachillo shirt from Duluth Trading Company- I heard they had some sort of technological advantage which keeps you cooler than in a regular shirt. I also like to have my arms covered when I'm working in full sun for long periods of time.  I don't know if it really keeps you cooler, but I felt "cool" wearing it! Now it's my farm uniform!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the yard work done for the week (anyone who has a yard fully appreciates that it's never done- LOL), I wanted to FINALLY finish the bedroom construction so I can move onto the good part- decorating and finishes. I've hired a contractor to hang the drywall ceiling to which beams will be added- it was the ole "2 weeks" timeline so we'll see... But the walls are prepped with 3 sheets of paneling to cover where the old closet was, the door to the living room covered and it's ready to paint. The floor had tar paper (?) covering the concrete slab, so that's gone and I'm in the process of selecting laminate flooring- now the fun part!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original second bedroom will be a closet for the master, and that too is ready for paint and finishes- at last, something ready for the pretty stuff! Keep checking on the progress, I have some interesting finishes to apply!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe you remember from the Walton's TV show from the 80's, Ike Godsey had a general store. This was the everything store for the local population- you got your mail, groceries, and anything you needed with a bit of local gossip just to spice up day-to-day rural life. In most of the small towns I visited while looking for the farm, a new type of Dollar Store was being built. Many things were more than a dollar, but they have a selection of just about anything you need.I think this is the new general store. And it's about half a mile from the farm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've heard a lot of talk this week that 4th of July is a very big deal in Eldred, and in the surrounding towns. My electrician tells me he's working on floats, bandstands and other electrical necessities for the 4th of July celebration. I can't wait. With an overload of politics just about now, it will be good to have some straight-up American pride to witness. I hope you all have a wonderful and sparkly weekend! Sandy

 


A WEEKEND OF FLOWERS ~  3 JULY 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the doldrums of February, all I can think about is planting- something, anything! This year I thought to start some lavender seeds and add  plants to the farm scape. In my garden in NJ, lavender seems to be immune to woodchucks and deer foraging, bees love them and they add a certain "Englishness" to the garden. In all, just 14 seeds grew into nice plants. I was looking forward to an extra day at the farm this week with the 4th of July celebration, so I left home full of hope that many things would get accomplished in a more relaxed way including cleaning out an old garden and planting the lavender.
The former owner of the property kept a small (about 8' x 12') vegetable garden next to the house, bound in 4x4 fencing. It once had electric to keep the deer out, but the "juice" doesn't seem to be attached any more. After more than 2 years of neglect, it was a pretty wild space and full of garbage, to boot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere in there, you'll see plastic buckets, flower pots, tomato stakes, twine, plastic ground cover and shingles contributing to the full contractor bag of garbage I collected! There were more than 2 wagons of weeds.
Like I said, I was going to clean out this space for the lavender plants...which half-way to the farm I remembered I had left at home! Duh! As it turns out, I didn't have enough time to prepare the bed, so next week they'll be moving to the farm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The garden view from the bedroom window is pretty, so I'm looking forward to a lovely sight, first thing in the morning.
Lavender has a short blooming season- maybe about 3 weeks, but if it rains heavy during that time, the crop can be lost. Off one plant and over the years,  I've made dozens of lavender wands. These are lavender stems, turned back to encase the lavender buds and woven with fine ribbon. Just a gentle squeeze can release the aroma many years after it has dried.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As my friend Sus says, "Lavender makes me happy!" I agree wholeheartedly.
An experienced horticulturist can probably tell the date by which roadside flowers are in bloom. Having spent a couple of decades in the country, I used to know all their names and habits, but I hadn't thought about it much any more. On this week's drive I was amazed at how beautiful the unkempt parts of our country is- just wild and free with precious blossoms adding to a gallery of color along the roadsides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Butter and Eggs" have two shades of yellow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Vetch" resembles a sweet pea and grows in the worst soil- a true survivor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naturalized Tiger Lilies prefer a moist location.  These 3 photos were all taken at one stop, walking just a few feet up and down the road!
Many years ago, I went into the room where my grandfather was sitting in front of the TV, but wasn't really watching. I asked him what he was thinking about. He said "You just don't see many black-eyed Susans any more. I like to see them, and I miss them". He was probably 80 years old then and it was such a poignant moment for me- an opportunity to see into his heart. My friends, I hope the flowers you love are ever present and your life is bloomin' wonderful this week- Sandy


WHEN LIFE TURNS INTO A MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE ~ 12 JULY 2016

Renovating houses is not a new interest of mine- I've been learning at it for more than 40 years. This is a photo of my wonderful sister Vivian (left) and myself standing in my first rehab project which we worked on together- circa 1977. It was summer and we were young. So many of our antics are fresh in my mind- we had such a good time.
My friend Marian, who I've known for more than 45 years and lives in Florida with her handsome and very cool husband Paul, wrote to me last week and said I should have a TV show- call it Sandy's Dandies. That amused me- I mean who doesn't think of themselves as a star? But I think that comment shaded my thinking for my farm activities this week.
After the three hour drive on Friday, the first thing I want to do is check out the raspberries and take a walk around the property. It's great to stretch my legs, get grounded to this new reality and check it all out.
I remembered to bring the lavender plants and I put them on the picnic table and sat for a minute to survey my "estate" LOL.
Within a minute, I "felt" something walk behind me and turned and I was three feet from a red fox, who was as startled as I was.

 

We stared at each other- eye to eye- for about 10 seconds (which seemed like a long time) and in those moments, I started thinking - gee, his face is so sweet and delicate, his tail is so fluffy, he's really cartoon like,  Jack Hanna talking in my head saying DON'T FEED WILD ANIMALS and I wondered if he ate me, would that be considered feeding the animal? He walked away, in no apparent hurry, leaving me contemplating a star appearance on Wild Animal Kingdom.
You probably remember how hot it was last week, so on the way to the farm I stopped at Walmart and bought a window air conditioner- just a small one for a bedroom window. Small though it was, it weighed about 50 pounds and I struggled it into the house. The house had been secured for a week without a breath of fresh air so by the time I got the AC into the house I was a sweaty mess. I assembled the few parts, plugged it in and tried to lift it into the window- so far so good. The fresh air was blowing in my face and I was reveling in the cool breeze. Next step- close the window onto the AC unit and secure with screws. No problem, BUT the unit tipped when I closed the window on it, pulling the upper window sash out of the window frame and the AC unit started falling, the window pane landed on my face knocking my glasses off, the unit was running, resting on my knee and I didn't have a spare hand to do anything but try to keep everything from breaking onto the concrete floor. Wait a minute- this is straight out of I LOVE LUCY, I thought. Oh, why didn't I get the chocolate bon-bon feature??!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have twins in the back field- beautiful Bambis, which is why we put up a deer fence! I also saw a woodchuck- a farmer's most dreaded pest and in my mind I started hearing the theme song from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. It was totally involuntary!
Because it was a rainy weekend, I had a chance to do a lot on the house. I'm a careful carpenter and everything takes me twice as long as a tradesman- but I like it and it's fun for me. I'm waiting for tradespeople on a lot of projects so doing a quick inventory- Front door moved?No. Bedroom ceilings installed? No.  Electric to bedroom completed? No. Furnace removed? Yes- OMG, I get to work on the laundry room!
While I hope you never have to clean up old grease- I mean disgusting, tacky, goopy,1/8' thick grease stuck around where a furnace once was- I'd like to share a tip (Heloise audition?). Squirt Dawn dishwashing detergent on the grease, let it sit for about 15 minutes and scape up with a metal scraper. Squirt more Dawn, brush with a wet brush and voila! it's gone. What I thought would leave me crying, turned out to be one of the easiest things to clean up.
In short (and because I didn't take pictures) I framed out a wall from the kitchen into the laundry room to recess the refrigerator, added the door frame to the new door opening my friend Michael Winstanley cut out for me a few weeks ago, primed then painted the walls and ceiling of the laundry room and installed peel-and-stick tiles on the floor. While I wouldn't have guessed it, the laundry room is the first room even close to being done- it just needs the windows painted and some baseboard trim around the new floor! Finally, real progress!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday morning I had a major delivery from Home Depot- 4x8 sheets of underlayment which was ordered for upper walls (but may be used for ceilings since the sheetrock guy hasn't shown up..) and sheet rock to apply to the main kitchen wall to clean it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and shiplap for the living room and kitchen walls, tongue and groove pine for the bunk room expansion and 2 do-it-yourself closets for the master closet room. If I can just attach it all to the house, we'll be pretty much rehabbed. Fortunately my wonderful Rick is coming next weekend to help put the pieces in place. My hero!
So I drove home on Monday- with my lavender plants in my car as it was too rainy to plant them-  with a sense of satisfaction for all I had accomplished and all the wonders that I saw. Sometimes when I feel that full, the leftover greed in me asks- what else would you like? I thought a shower- a nice hot, in a clean bathroom shower so that's what I had my mind on when I pulled in the driveway of home. Rick met me at the door and said the hot water tank is broken, but don't worry the plumber is coming with a new one tomorrow. I'm thinking, this is the Days of Our Lives, right?
So friends, life can be hard some days and we tackle it as best we can. I left out the part about the carpenter ants that when I squirted them with bug spray all came running out from the wall, by the hundreds, at me! The secret to a lot of trials is knowing who to call, and when to get it off your plate (the nice exterminator is coming next week). I hope you have a fun week and your problem solvers are on speed dial! Sandy

 

 


HOME WORK, REALLY ~ 20 JULY 2016

I think we left off last week with everything going wrong...

'Cause everything seemed so gloomy, I didn't even mention that the toilet broke and I left a message for the plumber to please fix it before Thursday when I'd be back- thus giving 4 days for the repair. I was so excited as I drove to the farm Thursday because Rick was coming Friday and he hadn't seen the progress for 6 weeks- so much had been done. But when I arrived on Thursday, the toilet wasn't fixed and that same sense of despair flattened me out, not to mention that the temperature was to be in the 90's for the whole weekend. As I get older, my tolerance for temperature extremes is on the wane- winters seem colder (even though I lived in Vermont and up state NY for many years and loved the cold) and in summer, my core temperature gets so hot, I want to explode rather than bare it.
With so many things planned, including some fun time, I hated to call Rick to say he shouldn't come because I had a broken toilet. But when I did, he said he'd go to Lowe's, get the new wax ring and other parts and come fix the toilet. If he couldn't fix it, he'd leave and so would I.
Thursday, I worked at finishing the laundry room, which now that I've thrown out the dirty and highly questionable washing machine, has become the utility room. From the kitchen, I added a closet going into the utility room to recess the refrigerator. I framed the wall last week and this week started to apply the tongue-and-groove pine boards to close the two rroms from each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the boards were secured (notice I ran out of boards for the corner :-(  ) , I primed and painted them, put together a 6' tall shelving unit and added other practical organizational items.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've been going to garage sales to buy things for the farm that don't need to be new. I was lucky to get this back-of-the-door shoe holder for $2 (brand new in the package which said $14.95!) which I immediately thought would be great for all the cleaning supplies I have been using to erase the years of grime and neglect. It worked out better than I thought, with room for light bulbs, extension cords, some painting supplies, flower cutting shears and garden gloves. It's the most sophisticated and accessible "junk drawer" I've ever had! 
Over 20 years, Rick and I have worked together on 6 whole house renovations- 3 for ourselves and 3 to flip. We both like the work and both have individual strengths to bring to the project. We've spent so many hours at it, we've learned to dance around the stressful spots, give credit to each other when a compliment is due and have an ease of chatter as we go through the steps of improvement.
He arrived on Friday with the bag of fix-its from Lowe's and started on the toilet. After 4 hours, the toilet was fixed and runs better than ever. It was a much better solution than buying a composting toilet which I was seriously considering!
You may remember, I had a hole in the bedroom ceiling.

The contractor who was coming 2 weeks ago never showed up and didn't return my calls. He was charging me $450 to sheetrock 2 ceilings. I had seen a picture of a ceiling from underlayment (which is a 1/4" plywood but with one finished side) which looked pretty good- so I thought I'd try it. The underlayment is light weight, is paintable and could be installed with Liquid Nail glue and finish nails.
We had to first figure out where and how the studs ran in the attic and use a chalk line to make sure we were nailing into the beams. We based our grid on where the existing beams were so the pattern isn't made up of same sized pieces, but overall the look is pleasing- especially with the hole in the ceiling now camouflaged. The next step is to put batten strips over the seams and paint the whole ceiling white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course the ceiling fan had to be taken down, and put back up. While it was down, I spray painted the components white and it looks like a new fan. The 80's brass and faux wood, good-bye! 
The paneled room is now painted white, with white trim and a design accent to be completed next week.
After a long, challenging and ultimately satisfying day, we went out to eat at a local restaurant called Crossroads. This was funny to us because we both started our real estate careers at Crossroads Realty After dinner, we took a drive along the river and were amazed at how many camping places there are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The assortment of "lodging" was very impressive with campers, tents, screen rooms and a few wooden lean-tos. There were easily 7 or 8 different camp grounds set up with porta-potties, volley balls nets and hundreds of people having a great time. The river was beautiful- what a great spot to spend the night, and except for the throngs of other happy campers, enjoy nature.
We moved the trundle bed to the "new" bedroom and for the first time, I didn't have to think about bats coming down from the attic while I slept.
The bedroom had been opened to what was originally the second bedroom. I have designs to make it into a walk-in closet room. Just because it's a small house, we don't have to feel like we're in a small space. The next day, Rick put together 2  4' wardrobes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These wardrobes were purchased from Home Depot - fantastic storage and economical- and have 3 shelves and a bar for hanging clothes. Eventually the melamine doors will be replaced with pine doors and wrought iron pulls, fitting better with the farm theme. The space between the wardrobes will have a window seat and cushion. I have always wanted a window seat!
At the conclusion of the weekend, we saw that the raspberries have bugs, the exterminator attacked the carpenter ants and the fox still roams freely- making me wary of him every time I go outside. I'm sure my fox fears will diminish after I see my first bear! But the major change is how I've come to see my project. It's a broken down house, with a hundred more fixes to go, but when I share it with one I love, it's home and it's the best place in the world to be. Have a cozy week, my friends. Sandy


FOLKS, WE HAVE BERRIES!  ~ 28 JULY 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real estate business kept me in town last week end, but I went to the Farm Monday and to my surprise, the raspberry bushes are starting to show some flowers and berries are setting on the more mature canes. WOW! It's an interesting fact that early in the season, the canes are striving for growth but once they've grown 6 nodes, the plant changes to a fruiting bush and all the growth is towards fruit development. In the evening, you can even see the slight difference in the color of the leaves as the plant switches gears- the tops of the canes with flowers and fruits are a slightly limier green. The main crop begins the 2nd year so any berry that we may get this year is a bonus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All-in-all, the field looks great. With 160 plants in 5 varieties, it's fun to see the different growth and development. Pictured above is the Caroline variety. Weeding has been a constant chore even with the straw mulch. But the weeds pull out easily and a well tended field is a farmer's pride. Bees are plentiful to pollinate the flowers. It's so exciting to feel a part of this organized effort to make a berry!
Fortunately the weather offered up a brilliant storm and everything cooled to a temperature where home improvement was comfortably do-able. My project this week was (and is- I'm going back tomorrow) to take out the wall between the house entry and the "Bunk Room", creating a guest bedroom with an open and airy feeling. I decided on the name "Bunkroom"- which is a bit silly as I can't imagine any one of my friends climbing into a bunk at our age! But I bought a trundle bed at a yard sale, so I'll be able to sleep 2 guests on ground level but only take up floor space for one single bed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had removed the inner wall covering a month ago, and couldn't wait to remove the whole wall, expanding the little room from 7.5' square to 7.5' x 13' long. You can see how neat and clean the work site was and I started by trying to save the tongue and groove paneling on the inside of the room to use on another project. That became a folly when I realized the way the boards are connected, you just couldn't take out a nail and pull them apart without breaking the tongue or the groove. So I switched to Tracy's way- gimme the sawsall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's really hard to believe a 7.5' wall- with a 3' door opening- could make so much rubble! I call that progress! Once I cleaned up the mess, I started on the tongue and groove boards which will finish off the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ran out of materials- and energy- so this is where it left off. The boards are being delivered Saturday and I'm hoping more of this project will be done this weekend. I still have the main entry door to replace, the ceiling in the entryway and the flooring to finish.
Farm life is filled with things to do and I realized I haven't turned on the TV for about 2 months. It's been sitting with a drop cloth over it for at least that long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm not the only one creating homes here. This nest was on the ground by the front door. We all improvise as we go along- this nest (I hope you can see) is decorated with threads from a blue tarp. Friends, I hope your week is made of many threads of bright colors! Sandy


THE $3000 RASPBERRY ~ 12 AUGUST  2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's been a very busy week on the farm! I went up last Thursday, and though I didn't plan to, stayed a whole week and got home yesterday. Rick was coming to help on Friday and I wanted to make things as comfortable as possible for his weekend stay- good help is hard to find! So I made eggplant parmesan, zucchini tea breads, pickled beans, and had cherry tomatoes- mostly things from his beautiful home garden- which I prepared at home and took with me. Each week he's been creating a harvest offering when I get home and it's such a delight to use all the wonderfully fresh things from his garden. His thoughtfulness even includes a chocolate bar!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most immediate push was to get things ready for the NEW FLOOR (yep, you read right!) throughout the entire house which is starting on Monday, August 15th. Because of the unevenness of the existing tile and hearth, I decided to opt for luxury and hire Lumber Liquidators to do the whole job. Rick and I have installed yards of flooring in every renovation and at home, but this was my treat for me.
 I still had a lot of framing to do in doorways- which were widened- and everything had to be up off the floor.Since the delivery charge from Home Depot is $75 a trip,  I had ordered a lot of building supplies which almost covered the entire living room floor and the plan was to attach everything to a wall or ceiling over the weekend. Also I promised the electrician Dave that I would clear out the attic so he could move around easier- well, that never did happen- but with Rick to help, I thought all things were possible.
Sullivan County has a very nice public dump. At home we just put our stuff on the curb and the garbage men come and take it away- trash and recycles are the only separated items. In Sullivan County, everything is separated and put into a different pile- metals, corrugated cardboard, other cardboard (like cereal boxes) construction debris (my favorite and most visited area), plastic and glass, food garbage, electronics, recycled oil, tires, etc. The people who come there are very devout and walk from container to container separating out the items for disposal. I really love that people are so invested in responsible garbage disposal. In fact, I made a judgment that this is a great community- based in part on how the garbage is handled!  For a county service, I hear it's so well organized, they actually make money by selling what can be recycled and it improves our tax situation. Occasionally, you will see an item (kid's toy or lamp or piece of furniture) with some useful life still left in it, gently put to the side and someone will pick it up and take it home. For 10 weeks I've been depositing my contraction debris here, but for this all-out war-on-garbage, I knew we had to be able to dispose of a lot of stuff efficiently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In case you haven't seen one, this is a Bagster, offered for your convenience from Waste Management- and I have to say, it's a really great invention. The bags are sold at Home Depot (around $30), you pack them up, and go on-line to pay for and schedule a pick-up. Easy-peasy. Pick-up within 3 days and your construction debris- or kitchen remodel, or yard clean-up is gone! The pick-up charge is different in different areas, but in Eldred it cost $189. to have it removed- about the same as I would have paid at the dump at $25/carful, but a whole lot easier for me.
We started loading the Bagster with the sliding glass door- the miserable, broken tracked, screen fall out, one side seal broken, ugly sliding door-  which was finally replaced with my beautiful, old, solid wood door which was inside the house. After 2 disappointing arrangements with contractors who promised but never showed up, Ed Gavalla from Jesse G's Nursery and Landscape, who's team installed the deer fence, sent his son to do it for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesse did a great job. Ed had sent me photo of the finished project earlier in the week, but when I pulled into the drive it was so beautiful to see. Finally 7 weeks and 3 contractors later, the door is in the right spot to reorient the "front" of the house from the road side to the driveway side and the door looks like it was always meant to be there! Everything rests on the completion of something else and the new floor, electrical stuff in the entry and the walls in the bunk room couldn't be completed without the door being in place. So finally, I could move forward!
When Rick arrived on Friday, the first order of business was to figure out why the irrigation to the raspberries wasn't shutting off automatically- though I did manage to figure out how to manually turn it off. Then we put luan underlayment on the closet room ceiling- short just 2 small pieces to complete the job.  Then we sheet rocked the entry ceiling which is now open to the bunk room. It was a lot of arm raising, but we finished that and the brightness of the sheet rock compared to the dull and dusty wood ceiling that was there before is so cheerful. It's hard to offer a friend comfort when the whole house is topsy-turvy- building supplies scattered everywhere, no air conditioning, no couch just hard folding chairs to relax on and no stove to warm the foods I had made (cold eggplant is really very good, though!). Instead, Rick offered me the comfort by taking me out to dinner followed by evening rides in the country in his air conditioned car and laughing a lot at the seemingly endless fixes needed around the farm. It was a weekend of good progress and happy memories.
When Rick left on Sunday, I decided to stay on- we hadn't finished everything for the flooring guys and the flooring had become a beacon of progress to me. It had to be done! So I started by finishing the tongue-and-groove wall boards in the bunk room- just 4 boards short of finishing the room. I moved the ship lap boards which are to go on the great room walls to the wood shed , finished the door opening to the pantry and closet room and closet in the closet room, sheet rocked the main kitchen wall (which was quite disgusting), and moved the 18" kitchen cabinet to create a space for the stove relocation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love this house so much- this broken down, always needing a cleaning, perpetual challenge of a house. And I think it loves me too because it leaves me gifts. While widening the closet entrance in the closet room, I found a thimble- always a handy thing for a seamstress. It's not real silver, but it is elegant and fits me perfectly. When I was cutting out the kitchen cabinet to relocate the stove, I found a recipe book underneath and the picture on the front is a raspberry dessert- it looks yummy and may prove to be fortuitous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the farm offered up the first berry of my planting- a gorgeous, plump, firm berry, the only red one in the patch! I'm sure this was the best tasting berry ever! Between the fence, the plants, the rototilling, straw and compost, I have a $3000 investment so this berry is at least worth that. But it's like the commercial- the first berry, priceless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While driving to the farm, somewhere in north Jersey, I passed a Sunflower Maze so on the way home, I decided to stop and find out what that was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turns out, it's a field, about 5 acres, planted with sunflowers and some corn and the farmer takes out some growth to make a walking lane for kids and adults alike to get lost in there and find their way out. Being partial to a play-on-words, the idea of a sunflower maze with corn (maize) amused me. I love sunflowers, and have always wondered how to make a field of them profitable- here's the answer to my imagining! They have a beautiful set-up with porta-potties, picnic tables for groups, cut flowers for sale, hand painted sign boards of sunflowers with the faces cut out for kids to have their picture taken with their face in the hole and it's all done beautifully. They charge $10/adults and $5/kids. It seems like a real money maker to me, and a clever way to bring more people out to celebrate nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'll be stopping there as long as it's open for cut flowers- I just loved it!
Ultimately, I got the ratty old carpet pulled up from the great room and my job for the floor installers was complete. As it turned out, I had flipped my time around- I was going home on Thursday for the weekend and will be back to the farm on Tuesday.
Thank you, friends, for your interest in my project. What ever your "berry" may be, I sincerely hope you're enjoying every minute! Sandy

 


CLEAN, NEW FLOORS- PRICELESS!  ~ 19 AUGUST 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the floor team installing the new floors, I had time to primp the raspberry field a bit this week, and it sure is looking pretty! Even the weeds agree, it's just too darn hot to put out much effort and it was an easy chore to pull all the errant ones- especially the vetch which seems to grow, and grow and grow despite my pulling it out by the root.
As previously mentioned, I tried 3 new raspberry varieties- new and not tried in a commercial operation. They've all been slow to produce a flower and the growth habit of the Minot variety absolutely isn't suitable for pick-your-own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though a vigorous grower, the canes grow laterally, not upright as the Heritage do, and will require trellising. That's another effort and expense for the stakes, wire and time to keep them off the ground. They are also VERY thorny and just doing an inspection, tore at the skin on my arms- ouch! Not a patch you'd want to send your children into. I think I'll watch them for this year, then replace them with a gentler variety next year.
Meanwhile, while I was grooming the berry patch- and even enjoyed eating 5 berries, sun sweetened and delicious- the floor team was working inside the house. They had quite a job- jackhammering out a (fake) stone hearth and the kitchen ceramic tiles which were chipped and discolored. After the dust settled- on everything!- they used more than 10/ 50 pound bags of leveler in an attempt to level the whole great room floor. It was not easy and they did a fine job. My need-for-clean kicked in and they were hardly out the driveway the first day when I started wiping up the dust!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I selected a low sheen, laminate with a coastal vibe. I was looking to lighten the house while still having something which would hide the crumbs of dirt brought in from the field. It looks more beige in the photo, but actually has a gray overall cast. The men started in the bedroom and closet room, then made their way across the whole house to the bunkroom. The more they did, the more I liked it- so by the end of their 3 day job, I was crazy for my new floors! Not to mention, putting a bare foot down before was a gross experience, now it feels fine.
I'd hired Lumber Liquidators to do the job and they sent the best team to do the install. Four guys, all kind and perfect gentlemen who knew their craft. I cannot say but the nicest things about them all- it was a totally pleasurable experience.
I couldn't help myself and though all the rooms need painting and trim, I played house and dressed the bunkroom bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and staged the kitchen- so happy to see the appliances finally in their place. The stove has a griddle on top- perfect for farm breakfasts of raspberry pancakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving home, I stopped at a diner- one of those iconic diners with the green tile floors, stainless walls and a real milk shake mixer- for a hamburger. I got back into my car to head home and as I'm driving down the road, my eye caught something on my out side rear view mirror. It was a grasshopper type bug, his body flying parallel with the road and his antennae straight back, holding onto the mirror for dear life with his little hands. I couldn't help but laugh, so hard, at his plight.  It was like a scene from a cartoon and hysterical! Once I regained control of myself, I pulled over and gently put him on the ground, out of harms way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for joining my farm journey. I have just one other thing to say today:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a beautiful week! Sandy

 


PAINT AND OTHER OPTICAL ILLUSIONS ~ 30 AUGUST 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must confess that my time at the farm this week was of total indulgence. The berry bushes weren't expected to produce much this first year, but for a raspberry lover like myself, walking out into the yard and picking a small handful and savoring each one, is a luscious experience. At one point I daydreamed how many ways I could enjoy a raspberry- there are soooo many- and I was reminded of the scene from Forrest Gump when his friend was talking about shrimp. I do believe there is nothing "raspberry" that would not appeal to me! One of my  simple favorites is raspberries on vanilla ice cream- I let the ice cream soften and mush the berries into it- so yummy!
While this adventure is full of things I enjoy doing, it seems every week something comes up that must be given priority which is not on my list of favorites. Last week an interesting study on septic systems- hmmmm. This week I got to the farm on the day the lawnmowers had been there and apparently had mowed over a black plastic bag. The bits of plastic- not a one bigger than my hand- had blown from the front to the back, and side to side yard, covering the whole parcel. Before I could begin anything else, I had to pick up each piece. It gave me a good opportunity to check out the farm and I am always surprised to see what the earth offers up. So many things which were not there, now appear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a blue tarp, the majority of it buried in the ground. I tried to pull it out, but I need a shovel to totally unearth it- but I better do it because the lawnmowers will scatter it to the winds next week! I also found a St. Christopher medal in the driveway where I've walked a hundred times. Stuff just keeps coming up!
When I chose to get new floors, I knew it was a tradeoff for new kitchen cabinets and a long list of other longed for items. But I love the floors and the feeling of cleanliness they've added- so my main job this week was to paint the kitchen cabinets in an attempt to make due. Starting with a special cleanser recommended by the Lowe's man for "the worst of the worst", the job was more intense than I thought. The house had been vacant for two years and before that had been occupied by a 60 year old widower who must have had bad eye sight- I like to give the benefit of the doubt- because years of grime were attached to the cabinets. This is a reminder of what I started with:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After six hours- yes, six hours- of cleaning every crevice, drawer and cabinet front, inside the spooky parts next to the drain (ugh!), I seriously wondered if this was a good idea. If I had a plumber - which is rarer than hen's teeth in Eldred (I think there's some secret list, but haven't been able to track it down LOL) to detach the sink, I would have pulled the cabinets out and made due with nothing... but now they were awfully clean, for what they started as. So I carried on with two coats of primer and one coat of semi-gloss. Even with that, clearly they are in used-and-abused condition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Wikipedia, "Trompe-l'œil is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions". I was thinking about that when I was inspired to paint the countertop. I had already demonstrated a loss of hope that this would be a permanent solution when I spray painted the old and rusty (though very clean!) hinges rather than change out to the new ones I had brought with me. And while I had fancied a new countertop once the cabinets were painted, I decided not to invest a single penny into this kitchen set-up with these cabinets. As luck has it, I had brought a can of previously opened gray paint and I had the primer too- so why not?  So while the counter top will have limited functionality even after two coats of urethane sealer, and the drawers pull out weird and rest uneven, I have created the illusion of a nice kitchen!  As the paint chips off, inevitably, it may add character to the space and I may realize that a farm kitchen needs character to be truly homey. But now I think it's a good thing I gave up being a perfectionist a while ago!
Part of my plan to enjoy this wonderful farm experience is to figure out ways to have it pay for itself. I have been buying and selling houses for more than- OMG, has it really been that long- 45 years and have been a licensed Realtor for about 19, so I know first hand that there are carrying costs, maintenance and expansions that can really add up, especially for someone approaching retirement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thought I had was canning jams, pickles and relishes. Oddly, New York State has very lax laws regarding home food businesses. The only paper requirement is an application (renewed every year) and a copy of a clean well certification,  tested annually. The land that I own is zoned agricultural and a small road stand is permitted. And with the folks coming to pick berries, it seems like a winner to offer canned things, fresh baked tea breads and muffins- all which I love to do! So I invested in the canning equipment I'll need and started by making candied jalapenos which Rick grew in his garden. The flavors must "marry", so we can't open a jar until September 1st but I'm very excited to see if this will be the first "specialty" for the road stand. If you have an oodle of peppers, I'll gladly share the recipe- just write me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick is very proud that we have a frog in the pond garden at home. It's a wonder, really- where did it come from (we're not near a lake or pond) and how does such a small creature make such a big croak? These are mysteries which abide in nature and we delight in.  I hope marveling at the mysteries in your world takes a bit of your time this week, friends, and that the Labor Day gives you an extra day to experience the wonder. Sandy


HUMMINGBIRDS, BERRIES AND BEARS, OH MY! ~ 9 SEPTEMBER 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MMMMM, good! It's delightful to see the berry bushes so productive- not only with lovely berries, but also with fine root growth producing more canes. The stronger the plant, the better the harvest will be next year. The deer fence seems to work since 5 deer graze around the house every night and haven't tried to scale the 7.5 foot high barrier. I've been collecting about half a cup of beautiful berries everyday- and finally I've run out of unbridled desire for them- well, I never thought I'd see the day! Being too few to make a generous gift, I decided to freeze them each night, collecting the bounty for a batch of jam when I have around 8 cups. But, my imagination still runs wild with "new" uses for raspberries. Here's a concoction- PB and not quite J, which was very good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the 2 days before Rick was expected, the electrician finally finished. Almost every project was on hold waiting for an electrical adjustment. So now we have lights in all rooms and outlets that work, which is sooo handy. I was finally able to finish the tongue and groove wall from the bunkroom to the laundry and prepare to paint. The knots will bleed through paint, so they must be sealed. Two coats of a paintable varnish was applied to all knots, followed by a tube of paintable caulk to the joints on the windows, posts and beam and I was finally ready to paint a full coat of primer, then the finish coat of paint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The room still needs base and crown moldings, half a paneled ceiling, door moldings, a door to the laundry room and décor, but I'm happy as it's coming along.
Being a holiday weekend, Rick came to the farm to help me with some things that needed 4 hands. I really love having him with me- it's much, much more about the fun time we have than the work that gets done- but we did a lot.
If you watch HGTV's Fixer-Upper, you know that shiplap is a style of pine board often used in the 30's and 40's to strengthen the frame of a house. Sheet rock or wall paper could be applied over it as a decorative finish. Now it's a popular wall board which can be painted or left natural. The boards I ordered were 8 and 10 feet long (8" high)- I definitely needed  an extra pair of hands to install it. I'm using it in the great room (the tiny great room ! LOL) as a wainscot, up just 4 feet. The process of leveling a line around the whole space- over the doorway openings, past the proposed fireplace chase, omitting the prime kitchen wall- was quite a challenge. And sometimes we're silly, using a 4' level (which is sometimes level) with a 12" level on top, assisted by a lazer level line and what do you think? Each line was different! A lot of these serious calculations come down to eyeballing it and doing the best we can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did the room over 3 days and though the jig saw broke at the absolutely worse time, we were undeterred! I haven't framed out the hearth chase for the anticipated gas fireplace so we didn't do this wall. Ironic, since that was the first wall slated for demolition which Tracy and I completed within 3 hours of owning the house! Fake stone just isn't my thing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving out for dinner and just about 3 miles from the farm, we saw 2 bear cubs crossing the road. I'm sorry I couldn't fish my camera out fast enough from my purse to get a photo. They are adorable, though, and I just wanted to catch 'em and hug 'em! I get a lot of local info from the man, Bernie, who manages the recycle station. He told me that bears can (and will) cover a 50 square mile area in search for food and there is no bear hunting season, though the population has increased markedly in the past few years. But, if a bear is a problem- getting into garbage cans, etc- you can call the animal control. Destruction of personal property does not have to be tolerated and if a bear is first reported and caught, it is tagged with a badge in its ear. The second time, it gets a tag in the other ear. The third time it is euthanized. So if you see a bear with matching ear tags, you know, that is a bad-ass bear! Hunting season is open as of September 1st, starting with wild turkey and squirrel. According to Bernie, squirrel is mighty fine eating.
 

After a long work day, we enjoyed going out to dinner and tried new restaurants. On Monday, Labor Day, most of the restaurants were closed so we got a panini and took it home for a picnic. While sitting at the picnic table, a hummingbird flew around our heads for at least a minute, spreading its wings and hovering to attract our attention. I've never seen anything like it- it really seemed to be communicating with us- or trying to at least! More wildlife magic!
 

It was a long and hot week, but I loved it. When I got home, Rick had already bought a new jig saw so I can carry on with my work. It reminded me of the "good ol' days" when, for Christmas, he would buy me a piece of jewelry and a tool. One year a beautiful necklace and a table saw! The next, a blue sapphire ring and a chop saw! Oh, what a man- he knows my heart so well! I think there's a saying that a girl can never have too many diamonds. I'm like that, but I like tools more! Next week I'll be playing with the router.
As I drove home to Toms River, I saw the first of the fall leaf turning. It is a specific type tree- which I couldn't see close enough to identify it- but for several miles each one was yellow, instead of the frosted-mint green it usually is. Fall is coming- my favorite time of year. Have a fun and inspiring week my friends! Sandy

 


A TIME TO RELAX AND ENJOY ~ 19 SEPTEMBER 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first time, I got to the farm and felt no urgency to work on or finish a project, clean something or fix something which had broken- is this what normal life is like? Oh, don't misunderstand, the projects are on-going and the furniture tops are a bit dusty from the ceiling fans always spinning to circulate the air, but all-in-all, the house is becoming a home, even just for short spurts of time.
Driving up, I noticed a lot of fall turning- patches of yellow on the mountainsides and a chill in the air. This is my season and I feel a rush of energy that makes me unstoppable! My first look is in the berry patch, even before unlocking the house. OMG- I have sooo many berries! I stood in the middle of the patch, laughing with sheer delight- it's something wondrous to see nature working so perfectly. In the coming weeks, there will be so many berries, it's time to start the jam factory!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entry is part of the "bunkroom" and I had brought trim with me to finish off the door frames. Michael Winstanley, my friend who cut the door from the utility to the entry back in Farm Week 4, will be amazed that finally this is done (it's now week 15)! The "Bunkroom" side is all trimmed out, but I forgot to take a picture-  :-( , but it looks cute and even has some décor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a beautiful fall day and I wanted to be outside (and inside!) so I took some time in the lavender patch, hoeing probably for the last time this year. The plants have struggled and look puny, but their color is good and I think they'll respond to a snow cover and more moisture. It has been terribly dry this summer and the lavender patch is like a dust bowl- no matter how often I water it, the ground is bone dry. I've heard that the river (Delaware) is down 15 feet from drought. But lavender is a Mediterranean plant, a lover of hot, dry and rocky conditions, so it should establish well (sometime soon, I hope!).
Every Saturday I think I would like to go to the Barryville Farmers' Market but something always comes up. For the first time, there was no reason not to go, so I went off on a field (LOL) exercise to see what was available and if there was a place for raspberries next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were about 20 vendors with all sorts of gorgeous seasonal vegetables and fruit. Also a few local wine makers, bakers (I got the best crusty bread!), a wood worker, herbal remedy specialist and free-range chickens for sale from 2 vendors. The only thing missing was RASPBERRIES- not a one in sight! I feel a little giddy because the clientele was ripe for a nice box of raspberries. Oh, boy, I can't wait 'til next year already!! Just for the record, I also didn't see anything lavender,  so I hope I get a good crop next year as it is usually very marketable in bunches, wands or tied stems to throw on a fire for fragrance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers were also for sale and many vendors (notice the bin of carrots in the background!) had herbs by the bunch and bags of edible flowers. I'm so crazy in love with all the possibilities for fun I can have!

I didn't know when I pulled in the parking space, but found out leaving, that the Market grounds border the river. What a beautiful drive to get back to the main road. There was a big inn, something you'd see in an old-timey movie where Bing Crosby would croon out the window while staring at the river, houses that were built probably in the 30's or 40's- big and welcoming with wrap around porches and porch swings. There were several rafters and boaters out and I could easily imagine that the river always offered up something interesting to see.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trip out to the Farmers' Market was terrific. I got a new squash (I forget the name) which is a baby relative of a butternut and yellow beets which are so yummy. The people were wonderfully friendly and loved to chat about their farm. I was right at home!
Meanwhile, I still had in mind to paint the closet room, so I did and applied the ceiling trim. I thought I was going to rout out the moldings myself, but decided to leave them square-edged. The first time I ever heard the expression "lipstick on a pig" was from Sarah Palin when she accepted the nomination for VP, but I knew exactly what she meant. This house can't be too fancy so I tempered my desire for thick crown moldings and high curved-topped baseboards and decided to go with stock one-by lumber. This is the nicely finished window wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the other side of the room which is painted but needs some help- seriously! I'm trying to design a clever cover-up since the water holding tank needs constant ventilation to prevent mold from forming (the tank sweats when it's hot) but I'm drawing a blank. It's a challenge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real estate business and Missing-my-Rick pulled me back to New Jersey on Sunday, but I had a great few days. Quiet and solitude changes a person in ways that can't be measured and it's humbling to be surrounded by the beauty of really tall trees, to see the outback peppered with deer grazing at evening and watching the sun gently cross the berry patch during the day. Country life is sensory overload! I wish I were more poetic so you could feel the beauty of it all. Thanks for sharing my journey- Sandy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A simple chocolate pudding pie with crushed Oreo crust decorated with raspberries.

 


ON THE RAOD AGAIN ~ 28 SEPTEMBER 2016

 You'd think that after 16 weeks of traveling the same roads on my 3 hour trip to the farm, I'd become bored of the scenery- but quite the opposite is true. I love the ride, watching the crops mature on the road sides, different wild flowers emerging each week, posters for various and upcoming venues- it's always different!

Traveling with friends passes the time. Lately, I've been listening to music, and while my collection of CDs is limited, I keep going back to my old favs. Joni Mitchell is great because I've known her work for so long, know all the words to the songs and her voice range matches mine so I can sing along. The Traveling Wilbury's is also peppy and fun and I'm always reminded the lengths Rick went to get the CD for me- importing it "bootlegged" from Russia! But my current best traveling album is by Sonnenblume with vocals (and bass) featuring my niece, Liz Forster. The Advance Copy CD I have was made in 2013, but I still love it, and if you're interested, can find a song from it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppesEdssnxc.   Liz's husband, the very talented Todd Ayers, plays guitar and did most of the arranging and mixing (I hope that's right- I don't know all the terminology in the music business!) and their daughter Kaeli is part of the vocals and plays violin on some of the tracs.  All in all, it's a fun ride to the farm with friends and family!

 

Fall is on the way and the most notable change in scenery is the collapse of ferns, as pictured at top. Even without a "cold snap" or frost, the ferns seem to know the inevitability of the coming cold season and voluntarily succumb. From Barryville north, the roadsides have browned fern and even in my yard, they've given up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My home project this week was to cover the old and damaged fake stone chimney. Ironic that this was the first wall taken out, and the last wall to be completed. Fortunately, Rick was coming to lend the two extra hands I needed to do it. First, we framed out the chase to cover the existing chimney,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(BTW, that's a pencil in my hand), then we covered the framing with shiplap. The side walls are shiplap for the bottom half and builder underlayment for the top half- all will be painted white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, that's better! The other walls still need the underlayment on the top half, but the shiplap is done around the great room and kitchen- wow! The chase bumps out about 20" which leaves a nice space for built-ins on the right side to house the TV and other stuff that needs a home.
This would have been so hard to finish without Rick helping me, but mostly I appreciate the fun we have doing projects together. I was excited to take him to the Barryville Farmers' Market on Saturday and we saw a lot of interesting things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Rhio, who has grown the most perfect swan gourd I've ever seen- isn't that something?! She has a farm in Eldred too, growing vegies, herbs and edible flowers. She and her husband are in the process of renovating a building in Barryville to make into a jazz club. She said the local population is changing and a lot "more hip" people are moving into the area. I guess I got here right in time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also picked up a fresh red onion, garlic, shallot and another loaf of crusty bread. I'm thinking risotto for the vegetables..... yum. Quail eggs were being sold for $2.50/dozen. We'd never seen one and the lady showed us- so cute, about an inch big (or small, however you look at it. LOL), and speckled. Tough to peel as hardboiled and it would take a lot to make an omelet. I'd be happy just to look at them for a while and admire their delicate nature.

The summer has gone by so quickly and I've had so much fun. It wasn't until the other day that I realized it will be cold in just a few weeks and this house has no heat- oh, my! I'm looking into gas stoves- like a Franklin stove or potbellied- since they work even if the power goes out. I don't plan to spend much time there in the winter so this will just be for cozying up the house so I can continue working on it through October, at least.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The berries are more beautiful than ever. I'm sometimes gathering three cups a day and there are oodles of clusters still to ripen. The record thus far was to get 10 berries, all ripe and deep crimson colored, from one branch. It's amazing, but this variety of berry will continue to ripen until a hard frost, usually at the end of October in this area. Just a simple dessert like berries in cream tastes exquisitely rich, especially served with something chocolate- in this case, double chocolate zucchini cake (the zucchini from Rick's garden!). My friends, I hope you find many delicious things to enjoy this week! Sandy
  


BEAUTY AROUND EVERY CORNER ~ 9 OCTOBER 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I knew when I headed out, that I wanted to capture the fall foliage on my drive. Heading North, the views were bound to be spectacular, even though the height of colors wouldn't drift in and out for another week or so. But honestly after stopping for 4-5 photos of what I thought would be the best, I just continued to be astonished at the colors unfolding before me- so I stopped stopping for photos and just enjoyed the ride. It's truly a beautiful time of the year and I wholeheartedly recommend a day trip to anyone where fall is happening. For my friends from Florida and the south, you're welcome for the glimpse of what surely you've been missing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I got to the farm on Wednesday, I had in mind to paint the living room part of the great room ceiling- sounds easy enough, right? Years of chimney smoke and nicotine accumulation from cigarettes and cigars,  created a tough cover-up. After attempting to cover the kitchen part of the ceiling with the normal prime-and-paint methods and still having a blotchy and unacceptable job, I consulted the paint specialist at Home Depot and found out it must be primed with an oil based paint- the only way to guaranty a perfect cover. I'm intimidated by oil based paint- so runny, so messy and so permanent on the face and hair! But I had to muster up to the task so I donned my kerchief, pulled down over my brows, wore rubber gloves and a sweatshirt (even though it was 75 degrees) and had at it. Just a tip I picked up along the way- put on a lot of face cream and lotion on your arms for an easy clean-up. The paint spots just wash right off from the greasy areas of the skin. Once the primer was on (I redid the kitchen, too), I painted the ceilings with a good quality latex paint. And what do you know? THE STAIN STILL SHOWED THROUGH! OMG, I really was disgusted, but with a total of 5 coats of paint on the kitchen side, that looks good. At least I could move onto wallpapering the feature wall in the kitchen- finally total satisfaction!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ordered this wall paper in May- loved it from the moment I first saw it- and I've been waiting for the kitchen ceiling to be done so I could hang it. Please take note of the "window curtain". Who knew that translucent trash bags could be used for privacy?
Oversized windows do present a challenge when you need privacy but don't want to invest a lot of money in a temporary solution. One of the best things I did was to buy shower curtains to cover the sliding door and the 8' front window. Walmart has sets, with rings included, for around $13.00. They can be put on any stick or old curtain rod and, depending on the fabric you choose, can be total blackout. When the sliding door was taken out, I modified the curtains to cover the doors which have glass panes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using black tacks, the existing ring holes slide over the tacks and presto, evening privacy. In the morning I can take them off in about 5 seconds, fold them up and put them away for the day. While this may not be the permanent solution to drapery or the coolest decor, it is a fast, easy and cheap solution for now.
Speaking of shortcuts and tips, I thought I'd pass along how I protect pendant lights when I am painting around them. Starting with 2" painters tape, encircle the light, butting the tape right up to the ceiling and pressing around the fixture, being careful not to press the tape into the bottom of the light cap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This insures paint will not seep onto the light. Then, because part of the sticky part of the tape is available at the bottom, from the inside press light weight plastic- dry cleaning bags work great-  onto the tape to cover the fixture. Easy peasy- no more having to cut in carefully around the top of the light and no splatter on the pendant. With this method (after cutting in with a brush), you can roll the paint roller right up to the fixture so the texture is consistent with the rest of the ceiling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 5 days of rain and me being in NJ, I wondered if the berries still ripen when there is no sun. The answer is "Yes, they do"! When I got to the farm after such a long time away, I picked more than a quart of berries- all plump and beautiful. And I had missed probably the same amount which were now falling from the bushes like drops of blood on the straw mulch. Ouch, it was painful to see. BUT, I learned something about the cycle of things and the perfection in the world when I saw bees eating the over ripe berries. I didn't know that bees ate things- I thought they gathered pollen for honey and ate the honey. I hope the bees don't get spoiled since this is a more direct dietary supplement! (I'm thinking why make honey when you can just ingest the berries directly? And somewhere there is probably raspberry honey being stored for winter.) Very clever these bees!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I mentioned that I am growing 3 experimental raspberry varieties. The "Joan J" is coming on strong and making huge berries. AND, they taste is much different from the Heritage- which is the type found in grocery stores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That's a big berry!
Just 'cause it's fun to be outside on a beautiful fall day, I decided to paint the door and frame, then couldn't help myself and painted the two small windows by the door. If I'd have had a tall ladder, I would have painted the gingerbread trim at the roof top, too! That's Behr's paint, color Urban Nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had planned a party for real estate clients I met this summer. Three families- two sisters and a brother- all bought homes in Holiday City. It was a fun night, going out to a local Italian restaurant, then home for dessert. I'd made an apple pie with raspberries and walnuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, not everyone could make it at the last minute and there was pie to enjoy the next day. 

I'll be heading back to the farm next week with plans to finish the great room walls. It could get cold there anytime, so I'm putting in a few extra days when ever I can. There's yard work to do, and a punch list of odds and ends to complete my goal of a renovated house before the snows fly. Because there's no heat, I'll have to have the pipes drained before a hard frost, then my time will be limited as to what I can do in my parka and mittens.
I hope you find some beauty in your world this week and enjoy the treats of the season! Sandy


JAMMIN' WITH MY BERRIES ~ 16 OCTOBER 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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t's even better than I remember... crisp mornings, shining dew and colorful leaves that cascade from the trees. What a weekend! I realized, it's been years since I was a leaf-peeper and even the slow motorists didn't phase the glow I had going on my weekly trip to the farm. The colors are reaching peak and the sky is so blue in contrast- I just love this time of year. I'm falling for fall!
I thought barns would make a good center piece for my photos, and though I pass more than 10, these particularly caught my attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In all the plans I make for the house renovation, I  plan it so I can do it myself, but sometimes this backfires on me. The next project I wanted to check off the list was the upper half of the great room walls which are 4x8 sheets of underlayment (like plywood, but just 1/4 inch thick).The sheets are very floppy, and though I can pick them up and move them, I can't do any measurements while I am holding them against the wall. The application was tricky because the underlayment had to be cut around the door and window frames so I had in mind to hold the panels on the wall, then scribe the doors and windows with new framing boards, then cut the excess underlayment (if that's hard to understand, it's even harder to do! LOL) Thankfully, Rick understood that I could not possibly do this myself ( it's kind of like a one armed wall paper hanger situation) and he offered to help me out for a few days- phew!
When he got to the farm, it was raining so we couldn't do any cutting outside which is where I set up the saws- bummer. But I always have the materials on hand for any number of projects so we put up ceiling molding in the closet room- another project which was much easier with 4 hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you remember, Rick helped me apply the new ceiling over the existing cracked, textured and generally ugly ceiling which came with the house. Several steps were in between the beginning and the finished product- spackling the nail holes in the ceiling, painting, putting up the ceiling molding, then the batten strips to cover the seams. At some point I'll paint them (after spackling and caulking), but for now, I'm happy to have the carpentry done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've been storing my building supplies in the wood shed and it's looking mighty pretty this time of year!
We also decided to dis-mantle the irrigation system to the berries. Rick planned it all in the spring and I do think that the steady (and professional) watering was what prompted such a great raspberry season this year. The plants were never stressed for water- one of the things that will retard growth and production. He also had a plan on how to get it out of the field in the fall which was genius so in under an hour we had it stored in the tool shed for winter.
And the sun came out, so we did finish the walls in the great room, but I'm saving the photo shoot until it is more finished with paint and trim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the more curious things I pass on my trip is a pipe flowing spring water to the road between Eldred and Barryville. I often see people filling plastic jugs with the cool mountain water. It's free for the taking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I stopped to take a picture, a car pulled up and unloaded about 2 dozen jugs. I asked if I could take a picture of the pair- one older gent and one younger. The younger said, take his, not mine, 'cause I'm wanted by the FBI (!). I asked if this was the fountain of youth- and the younger one said it is. He said he was 90 and he's been drinking it all his life (I would have guessed he was 30). We had a good laugh over it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After freezing berries for the whole season (and eating and giving away lots), I finally had more than enough to make a batch of jam- OMG, how I had missed it! I also had enough for about 2 quarts of raspberry sauce- lovely on chocolate cake, pancakes, French toast and as Rick suggested- crepes. I guess I'm an old fashioned girl 'cause nothing warms my heart like home-grown and processed foods. It's simple and satisfying and it makes me smile to see my cupboard filling with goodies (as I call them). You can also see I string the hot peppers Rick grows in his garden to sass up my tomato sauces and cream cheese spreads (awesome on crusty bread with soup in winter!)
As inspiring as the fall is, we know what's coming and I feel so pressed to finish what I had planned for the farm this year. I really want to get the great room painted, get the finishing touches on the closet room and FINIALLY finish the bedroom. There's an attic  filled with the previous owners stuff (is that where he kept the money?? LOL) a new septic cover to build and lots of trash to get out of the yard before I can say "well done" on this project. In the meantime, I'm loving every minute and look forward to my time there in the coming weeks before it is too cold to enjoy it. Sending you, my friends, best wishes for a happy week, doing things you love to do! Sandy


DIY AND DONE or IS DIY EVER DONE? ~ 31 OCTOBER 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the past two weeks, it's been a mad dash to the finish line before having the water turned off and the farm house buttoned down for the winter. Finally. I'm on to the fun projects! For three days I concentrated on the bedroom and closet room. Both projects were stalled for several months waiting for the finishing touches.
Before:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paneled walls are so 60's... or 70's... or 80's, so to change it up a bit I wallpapered the top section of the wall with underlayment. This is a great product- about the weight of poster paper- and can be used to smooth out concrete block when finishing out basements. Once applied, the underlayment shrinks over the panel grooves and dries to resemble flat surfaced sheet rock. It can be painted any color and when trimmed out gives the illusion that wainscot has been added to the bottom wall.

        

 

With pegs around the room for hanging bathrobes, straw hats or purses, a new headboard cover, finished out ceiling to cover the big hole and small electric stove, the room is cozy, clean and restful at the end of a busy day on the farm. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The closet room needed some imagination but was solved with 3 $1.00 garage sale items! The main concern  was that the existing closet housed the water heater, which needs to be accessed for draining and service and the expansion tank for the well water which sweats and needs constant ventilation. Before:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had purchased a mirror, new hangers and a curtain hold back for $1.00 each at yard sales. Using 3 hollow core doors from home which I saved when we replaced our interior doors with 6-panel ones, I made a screen and painted it the wall color. It can be taken out and provides ventilation since it's not permanently fastened. I added a clothes pole for hanging clothes and mounted the mirror to the newly framed and sheet rocked wall (sheet rock was left over from another project).

            

An old-fashioned screen door will cover the blue tank door frame when I can find one (!). A curtain made from fabric I had on hand brings this project well under budget!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With these projects behind me, I left the farm to attend my 50th high school reunion. I drove straight to the venue in Union (all the while wondering if I had paint in my hair- or else where! LOL) and got together with about 70 people I had known 50 years ago. Of course we'd all changed a bit, but if I studied the faces, I could recognize most and enjoyed seeing everyone again. If you have the chance to attend your 50th, I highly recommend it. My first friend Nancy, who I knew since I was 3 years old was there and amazingly, we still remembered each others' birthday! To Bonnie, Steven, Hank, Leila- you look amazing, and happy which was the best part of it all to see.
Then was my birthday and Rick made a special day of it with a movie matinee and dinner out. The sweetest gift was his offering of Farm Aid- a computer made certificate for $100 in farm supplies AND 10 days farm labor! Whoopee- the best gift ever!
Then I headed back to the farm to finish the great room. I was surprised to see a light dusting of snow the first morning I was there (October 27th), but happy to report the electric heaters do the job perfectly and I was toasty at night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years ago I bought a Lane hope chest at a garage sale for about $15, as I recall. My mother used it for many years at the foot of her bed to store extra bedding. I thought for that very reason, it would be good at the farm but I wanted to update it a bit and give it an industrial vibe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using 3/4 inch plumbing parts, I created legs for the trunk. I love it!  The trim at the bottom of the trunk has been missing since I got it, but I'm thinking men's leather belts will finish it off when I can find them at a garage sale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a concentrated 4 days of nail setting, caulking, sealing wood knots, applying trim, priming and painting, the great room is somewhat finished. I just need to replace the plastic bags I've been using as curtains!

     

The berries are finished for the season but the bushes look healthy and happy. With a morning of snow, chilling rain for 3 days and howling winds one night, I was very surprised to see blooming forsythia the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No one told this indomitable spirit of a bush that it only blooms in spring! And even as its leaves turn to fall colors, it flaunts it's own brand of beauty fearlessly. I find displays like this energizing, and magical, and beautiful. In all seasons, life here is special and it makes me soooo happy to be a part of it all. Keep warm my friends- real snow could be coming! And BOO, Happy Halloween! Sandy


GOING WITH THE FLOW ~ 9 NOVEMBER 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The seasons have clicked right past me and fall is fading fast. We've had many frosty nights and the leaves drop off the braches in a silent farewell. But the brilliance of this maple in front of the house still looks pretty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the house renovations just about completed- at least comfortable- there were two projects yet to finish before closing the house for the winter. The septic tank cover was seriously decomposed and needed to be replaced and the attic was still filled with the previous owners "stuff" from front to back. Last week my sister Tracy came for an over night to help me but it was a rainy day, not especially conducive to outdoor projects. I think I really just wanted a "girl's day", time to suspend the on-going projects and just have some R&R and time with a good friend.
So the task fell to my ever-lovin' Rick who had offered some time at the farm pitching in. Without getting into a blow-by-blow description of how one goes about replacing a septic tank cover, just let me say that it wasn't as bad as I thought and only took us a few hours to finish. I'm really grateful that Rick's and my skills compliment each other and when it comes to 4-handed projects, he's the best partner I could hope for. He's the one who insists on "dry-fit" while I'm bullishly forging onto the goal. He's prevented my demise many times!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main hurdle was what to do with the original cover which was totally falling apart and a little smelly. Bag it and put it in my car to take to the dump? NO WAY!  Bag it and put it behind the shed? OH, NO! Bag it and send it off via Bagster? Yup, that was the best decision and it ushered in seamlessly the excursion into the attic to start getting all the stuff out and gone. It was a nice fall day- not too hot, not too cold- so it was a great day to be out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's hard to imagine, what all was in the attic, most of it useless to me. A set of dishes which were stained, a set of luggage which had no redeeming features. Electronics, parts of things long since gone, broken louvered doors (5), boxes of hand-painted ceramic statues, broken chairs, a tiny, old TV which had no cord, one boot and the list goes on. The only thing salvageable was a pair of beautiful canoe paddles which will probably end up costing me money because now I want a canoe! The bagster could hold just  2/3rds of the attic contents. Still more to do, but a relief when we ran out of room in the bagster. They picked it up this morning so it's gone. I love bagster!
All summer I had been wondering about the tree next to the shed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has deep grooves in the trunk suggesting that the tree was, or had turned. There was no lack of light which would cause a tree to move for more sun. The roots weren't impaired by the foundation of the shed (actually, there is no foundation on the shed). I looked at it all the time, just wondering about it.
When the leaves came down, I could see that the branches barely touched the branches of another tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and it looked like the two trees were touching hands. It got me to thinking about how one turns towards love, to the comfort of closeness with a living thing like ourselves. That tree is beautifully symbolic of the small, imperceptible changes we make to love something outside ourselves and to be loved in return. It was just a moment, and it's hard to recount, but I was deeply moved by the gentle turning of that tree and will always remember that "tree-love" is the canopy outside my door.
I'm starting the kitchen island next week- a fun project with an unusual feature. Stay tuned and I hope your week is a lot more fun than a septic cover remake! Sandy


FINISHING THE FINAL DETAILS ~ 20 NOVEMBER 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow- what a time, huh? Response to the election is still ongoing and there's a revised government to form, but the really big news- I'm still going to the farm! Hooray for keeping it simple!
My alter-identity is as a real estate Broker Associate with ReMax New Beginnings Realty, located on Main Street in Toms River. It's a very social group of agents and they love to make parties! In fact I've wondered if their  business success is the reason for their frequent gatherings and celebrations or if the gatherings and celebrations are what bring their success?  Main Street is the route for most township parades so we have a grand stand view right from our office windows. On the heels of an awesome Halloween celebration (did you know that Toms River has the 2nd largest Halloween parade in the US with more than 6000 participants and 100,000+ viewers?), last Monday was the Veteran's Parade and I offered to help. We had a lot of breakfast-type foods on tables on the sidewalk as well as coffee, hot chocolate and bottled water and we offered it to everyone who passed by. Two motorcycle policemen started the parade and I yelled out to them "we have donuts!" and waved to encourage them to come back for treats. I laughed about that all week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The parade was terrific- 4 school bands, elderly vets in antique cars, about 30 motor cycle vets (fabulous), fire trucks (which I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out what that has to do with Veteran's Day), cheerleaders, flags wavers, many flags for MIA, VFW, high school military club members and lady's axillary for other organizations. It was great! Parades make me feel young and it's energizing to be on the curb, clapping for everyone as they pass. What a happy day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, at home, I was building a kitchen island for the farm. I couldn't really decide on the style because I always go with "pretty". But life there is far more casual, and it's meant to be easy going and not fussy. So I thought to bring in a little rustic to the design of the island, just to temper my more formal leaning. The finishes didn't matter because I had to take it to the farm in two trips so I had plenty of time to decide the details later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've moved most of my tools home now, so I  cut the pieces and put it together there. Then disassembled it and took it to the farm, where I assembled it again. I started with a box- framed bottom and top connected with tongue and groove boards. The back side is open with shelves for kitchen storage. Then I went back home and built, stained and varnished the top, cut the "rustic" detail and painted out the trim (which would be cut on-site).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rustic front is Pergo flooring though I think they make photographic wall paper which would have been cheaper and also effective but maybe not durable enough for boot scuffs that you expect at an island. I think it looks nice in the space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I opted not to replace wall cabinets, the extra storage is a real boon and who wouldn't want five feet more counter prep space?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who were questioning my acceptance of plastic bags for curtains (seriously, it was me who was questioning myself- how long could I endure it? LOL), I finally had time to make curtains for the front windows. Big sigh of relief when those were hung!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curtains and island- my last two must haves for the farm house this year. And just in the knick of time as the house is being winterized on Tuesday. If I go any more this year, it will just be a day trip to check it out.
The nicest thing about starting this little newsletter is that so many of you have shared your busy-ness with me too and included photos which has been really great! I love getting your news and updates- thanks for sharing your activities.
It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is this Thursday, then onto Christmas (and at some point I have to get back to real estate work!). In the spirit of true Thanksgiving, I appreciate your friendship and hope you have the happiest holiday season ever. Sandy


AND A VERY HO-HO-HO TO YOU ~ 10 DECEMBER 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For many folks, it takes a village to start the Christmas season. Not that villages have anything to do with the holiday itself, but more with invoking the hominess, the coziness, the warmth and nostalgia of our imaginings of the holiday season. For many, there is no snow on Christmas, nor are there ice skaters or carolers. For me, these things are such a part of Christmas, even if I lived in Southern climes, Christmas would always be filled with dreams of hot chocolate, sleigh bells and presents under a real tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I store all the "Christmas" in the attic in big plastic boxes which are intended to add organization to a holiday which is mostly out of control. Between the boxes of items for our home, boxes of items from my real estate office which I closed last year, and things I should have thrown away years ago- I have too much stuff and I absolutely intended to purge this year. Then I opened the box which contained the family going for a ride in their sleigh. My grandmother gave me the embroidery kit to make these dolls about 50 years ago. And about 45 years ago I realized I would never embroider them so I painted their outfits instead, and stuffed them with cotton. About 35 years ago I pulled out the stuffing and filled them with balsam needles from my Christmas tree. Every year when I open the box, the balsam fragrance pops out like a jack-in-the-box and transports me to Christmas. It happens just like that every year! And I'm stuck with having to do every Christmasy thing I can imagine- and for me, that's a lot of Christmas!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The week of Thanksgiving, I went to the farm to meet the plumber and have the house drained for winter. I was totally surprised to see 8" of snow covering everything. Eldred, I have been told is in a "weather pocket" and it can have hail when elsewhere it is raining- or sunshine when storms are all around. Driving there, I passed only remnants of a flurry but at my house, lots of snow. I loved it! The huge trees which surround the property were draped in it and the sun caused them to shimmer in the most beautiful way. Looking around, it was like being in a snow globe- the trees are so tall I felt like a figurine and every time there was the slightest breeze, snow would fly onto my eyelashes and coat. Every view was unique and perfectly lovely. 

 The raspberry branches were pushed down by the weight of the wet snow and I could hardly see any canes in the field. I'm not worried- the first spring chore is to cut out all those canes because berries grow on new canes, not older ones. That's what makes this a fall harvest. It takes all summer for the canes to grow and produce the berry. Now, summer berries do grow on last year's canes, but that's a different variety than I have growing here. But, I am super grateful that I have a neighbor who watches out for my interests!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think of the farm everyday and send a little blessing out to it- I miss being there so much. With total gratitude for the men who helped me this year, I decided to knit them all hats for Christmas. The man who rototilled the berry patch, the lawn maintenance guys, the electrician and his helper, the deer fence crew- without them the farm would have been too much a struggle to enjoy. Everyone of them was kind and skilled and I'm reminded that villages are made by the people who live there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm wishing you a wonderful Christmastime- cook something yummy, dress in something glittery, sing a carol and pass love to everyone you see! It's the most wonderful time of the year- I hope you enjoy every minute!
And I hope Santa is very good to you!   Merry! Merry!   Sandy         


I hope you enjoyed a visit to the farm! It was a great and fun year, the beginnings of a wonderful harvest. If you would like to receive my "Field Report" of what's going on at the farm, please

CONTACT ME HERE

and I'll add you to the list. Thank you for reading.