A lot can happen in a year

And sometimes it can feel like nothing changes during those 365 days.  I turned 40, I joined Instagram – to look at others, not to post (for now), I have gray hairs, I’m better at homeschooling, I started watching “Fixer-Upper” along with most of Texas.  My kids are now 9 and 11 and life feels very sweet.

Here’s what Addie’s looks like:

We took out a wall to open these rooms (total Fixer-Upper move).

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Trying to save the original windows with some sanding and priming.

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We are finishing the floors throughout the house this month with a dark stain.  We found a really cool carpenter who loves old windows as much as we do.  He plans to rebuild the original windows and will travel from Ft. Worth to Camden to install them personally!

On the homeschooling front I’ve signed up for my first homeschooling conference through these guys: Wild and Free  Most of my school mornings begin with either a glance at their Instagram account or Courtney Adamo’s.  It puts my head in the nicest place and my kids reap the rewards of a calmer (more calm?) mama/teacher.

About 4 weeks old, don't know gender, we've treated them for worms, fleas and are both finishing a round of antibiotics.

Kittens about 4 weeks old, don’t know gender, we’ve treated them for worms, fleas and are both finishing a round of antibiotics.

Last but not least, we found these kittens abandoned at our local park, if anyone in the DFW area knows of someone looking for a new pet or pets please comment below.

 


Beavers and Ducks

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When we are not tackling junk piles or learning about forest management in Arkansas you might find us among the beavers and ducks.  This kayaking fun was brought too us by the handiwork of a few beavers and about 7 years of their time.  When my husband’s grandfather, Otho, was alive and kicking he loved to wage war on those long-toothed furry creatures, they were encroaching on his precious forest after all!  In the last year of Otho’s life though he came to see the beauty in the beaver’s efforts and happily gave in.

5th generation is all about loving the beavers.

5th generation is all about loving the beavers.

This wetland is a perfect example of what we are working to cultivate in Arkansas, which is conservation.  Forests are amazing filters and do wonderful things for reducing our carbon footprint, as most of us know, but beavers are truly amazing little environmentalists.  Their dams and wetlands help fight drought, create healthier environments for other species and fight climate change.

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Plus it’s getting me really close to that pond moment in “The Notebook”, so yes, I’m totally down with the beavers.


To Grandmother’s house we go

Changing leaves on the tree in the horse paddock.

Changing leaves on the tree in the horse paddock.

Happy kick-off to the holiday season!  I love, love, love this time of year.  We’ve been working like mad weekend warriors in Arkansas and have lots of exciting new developments to share (like why we now have a horse paddock) but for now just a few links to get me back in the writing saddle.

If you are doing some traveling this holiday season here are a few things that have made a HUGE difference in our routine.

  1.  Yeti is a cooler company, we’ve had their hard cooler for a few years and decided to add their cooler bag to our stash this summer, couldn’t be happier!
  2. The only thing that makes Yeti better are Ball mason jars.  No more soggy anything!  They are easy to clean, easy to reach in and grab, they look great and are unbelievably versatile.
  3. This next one may not be for everyone but it’s worth mentioning.  Mason Pearson hair brush, travel size.  Prepare yourself, it’s $100.00 for a hairbrush but this brush has saved me from packing shampoo and conditioner for our 3 day jaunts.  The brush glides through my kid’s hair removing debris and dirt from the day and distributes some of the oil (and sweat) away from their scalp.  I brush before they jump in a shower or bath, they do a good water rinse and that’s it……unless.
  4. If they (or myself) are left with massive tangles, Honest Company’s leave-in spray conditioner has been a life saver.  This may be one of the most forgiving products ever, my kids can spray half the bottle on their head and their hair still looks great.(Note: if you are over 12 years old a few squirts will suffice).
  5. Castor Oil – hexane free – I’ve only had a couple weeks experimentation with this magic serum but I’m using it to tame my ever frizzy hair, my newly wild eye brows, soften my lips and ease my dry cheeks, rub in my nail beds, remove eyeliner, I’m not rushing to try ingesting this oil but just these applications have made it a must in my travel bag.
  6. For the ride itself I’m a huge fan of audio books, now that my kids are 8-10 years old the book selection is huge.  Harry Potter of course is amazing, but we’ve also enjoyed Rick Riordan’s books, currently listening to and loving Wonder and this one was also a family pleaser.  When I try to get in some schooling on the road The Story of the World keeps us all engaged as well.

Hope every one has some time for relaxing this weekend, I’d like to copy my daughter and do some this.

Lyon' like a dog

Lyin’ like a dog.

P.S. You might remember an old post about my hopes for Arkansas, here’s a picture from a recent weekend.  This is the latest property we’ve acquired, we aren’t Pinterest or Insta-worthy yet as you can see from the junk pile but we love it, warts and all!  Plus you can see the ingenious chiminea hack my husband conjured from said junk pile!

What to do when the top of your chiminea breaks off and a face full of smoke is ruining your dinner.

What to do when the top of your chiminea breaks off and a face full of smoke is not on the evening agenda?  Grab some corrugated metal and bailing wire – Stand back Macgyver, we’ve got this.


Arkansas adventures

AR breakfast

Our last trip to Arkansas yielded some very nice firsts!  We had the chance to break in this nifty Lodge grill for instance.  It was love at first breakfast, the charcoal starter thing-y had us up and scrambling eggs before I could finish slicing bagels – THAT’S FAST!  Normally my problem with charcoal grills is all the waiting but this thing makes it a breeze!

This was the first time we were able to sleep in the house (on the floor), eat in the house, go to the bathroom in the house (figured out the toilet has a crack though), wash out dishes in the house, clean ourselves at the house (sort of) – in short we were able to be at Addie’s without leaving for anything!

That left more time for exploring!

AR kids creek

As we were walking the land behind Addie’s we came upon this creek.  When we visit Addie’s we usually have a LONG list of stuff we’d like to get done and most of the time the kids are working right along with us.  So when the opportunity to take a muddy break presented itself I couldn’t say no.  Watching my kids negotiate this very wild, non-manicured, non-saftey checked creek was the best part although I’m sure my kids would disagree.  Armed with a stick to check for snakes (water moccasins would be common) and check water depth they very carefully explored.  It took 5 minutes just to get used to the squish of the creek bottom and non-stop bugs swarming them and the cool temperature of the water.  They became pretty bold after that though, testing that tiny vine as a swing (above), exploring deeper waters, so much braver than their mom!  We still had to walk back to the house after this creek adventure which brings me to a product review.

Bean boots AR

The kids received these LL Bean boots as a Christmas present.  They are expensive and not many boots can do what the Bean boot does….or is supposed to do – good for walking, perfect for wet ground, really, really good looking.  The only thing I can stand by is the way they look, they are a very handsome boot.  But getting them on and off is a pain and walking in them is a nightmare – two things that put them in the NOT buy again category.  What I’ll try in the future are another pair of Blundstones (you totally saw that coming I’m sure) worked over with a little magical product called Obenauf’s.  Although not marketed for waterproofing, with trial and error we’ve found it to be a good protector of the already water resistant Blundstone boot.  Perhaps we’ll need rain boots for the crazy wet days but for day to day needs, we’re back to Blundstone.

The work at Addie’s still overwhelms me, there’s so much to do, so much for me to learn.  But one day, I’m hoping to sit down at a table like the one below, with friends and family and tell stories of our early misadventures with this land and this whole process and marvel at how far we’ve come.  Sounds good right?!

photo via the old white house tumblr

photo via the old white house tumblr

 

 


Stop, Drop and Roll

Burn pile behind Addie's house

Burn pile behind Addie’s house

Back in Arkansas our projects continue.  The very first time I visited Arkansas a fire was involved.  At that point in my life, fires were something to be avoided at all costs, something scary and dangerous, the only fires I saw growing up were in fire places.  So at the age of twenty five when my soon to be husband took me to met his grandparents in Arkansas I was not sure what to think when “burning the brush pile” was on the agenda of our visit.  Coincidentally, this first fire took place behind Addie’s, my husband’s family gathered together to clear out the damage done by folks who had been renting the sweet old house and then set it all ablaze in the back yard.  Is this good for the environment?  No.  Is this how they do it in the country?  Yes. Is it exciting?  YES!

We made a burn line so the fire was unable to jump into the forest and we manned different parts of the fire armed with shovels, our faces covered with masks or bandanas, ready to smother any fire that looked uncontrolled.  I thought the whole thing was wonderful, the purposeful work, everyone coming together to help, the efficiency of the fire.  I didn’t think years later we’d replicate almost an identical scenario with our own little family but that’s exactly how it happened.  Over a decade passed since that first fire and in the meantime, Addie’s house was ignored, brush grew and took over what once was a meadow and fruit orchard.  From time to time a family member would drop by and attempt to control the overgrowth, cutting brush and piling back in that same spot in the back yard, over the years the pile grew and grew.  When my husband and I decided it was time to tackle this pile it was mammoth.  We called in some help, waited for the right conditions, grabbed a little diesel and a lighter and got started.  The kids categorize this day as “the best day ever”.  They covered themselves in soot, helped light fires, fanned flames, smothered errant flames, burned the bottom of their boots, smiling and sweating all the way.  They felt powerful and helpful and they were!  It was the type of experience we hoped our kids would gain in Arkansas and they are ready for more.

 

 


Stop me if you’ve heard this one

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Here I am day 4 of homeschooling.  Yes, we are teaching the kids at home now.  I cannot believe how many spelling/phonics rules I’ve never been privy too.  Sure maybe you can rattle off, “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ or when pronounced ‘a’ as in neighbor and weigh”.  When my kids were small they loved Starfall, and I learned the handy jingle, “when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking” (Like in meat or treat).  But this week while getting familiarized with Spalding’s, “The Writing Road to Reading” I’ve picked a gold mine of this stuff, for example:

1.  ‘c’ says ‘s’ when filled by e, i or y

2.  ‘v’ and ‘u’ can’t have the last word (meaning in English we don’t end words in ‘u’ or ‘v’

3.  ‘g’ may say ‘j’ when followed by ‘e’, ‘i’, or ‘y’

There’s about 29 of these rules, about half I’d never heard before!  Although my children don’t seem to be quite as enthused as I about this fascinating new world where the English language has started to make more sense, they did say they are having fun at school again!  That alone would have been worth it but knowing that many vowels have more than just short and long sounds also rocks.

 

 

 


Addie’s House 2

Back to Arkansas where the only time I think about my hair is to check for spiders before calling it a day.  How about a little look inside?  Truthfully we still haven’t had the opportunity to fully assess the inside of the house.  A family member uses the house for storage and until we get everything moved out, we’re not really sure about how everything looks within.

Part of the back room of the house.

Part of the back room of the house.

Talk about the land of the lost, this house seems to be where things go to be forgotten, but try to look past the stuff and get a glimpse of the floor……I’m sensing some interesting things there.

Here's the other side of the room, whoa look at that natural light streaming through the bathroom.

Here’s the other side of the room, whoa look at that natural light streaming through the bathroom.

Time to roll up our sleeves and get cleaning.

Child labor is highly helpful, you should see this kid suck up the dearly departed wasps with the shop vac!  Who needs video  games with fun like that?!

Child labor is highly helpful, you should see this kid suck up the dearly departed wasps with the shop vac!   Who needs video games with fun like that?!

Many, many sweaty hours later we were able to clean out three rooms.  This whole exercise was a huge motivation for living simply!

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Hey, where'd the kids go?

Hey, where’d the kids go?

What the......

What the……

Nothing quite like building traps in the sand-like Arkansas soil while tethering yourself to the porch!

Nothing quite like building traps in the sand-like Arkansas soil while tethering yourself to the porch!

What else sounds like fun?

Sawing some stuff down?

Sure, never done that before!

So much harder than I imagined!

So much harder than I imagined!

Just keep breathing, arms must keep moving.  It's gotta come down eventually....

Just keep breathing, arms must keep moving. It’s gotta come down eventually….

That little 2 inch tree was my Everest, so darn proud of myself!

That little 2 inch tree was my Everest, so darn proud of myself!

Lastly, found this little inspiration for the house “skirt”.  We will probably only be able to do this in the front and use lattice around the sides and back, but I think it’ll compliment the house perfectly.

photo via the internet

photo via the internet

Hope you’re enjoying our Arkansas adventures, until next time!


50 Shades of White

Addie's House as it looks today.

Addie’s House as it looks today.

We are in the process of picking paint colors for Addie’s House.  This process is made one gazillion times easier with the internet.  A simple google search of: white house, silver metal roof and thousands of images pop before your eyes like magic.

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image via google

For example, before seeing what a cream house with a metal roof looked like (above) it was something we were considering.  After seeing the example we realized how much we prefer the sharp contrast of a white house against a green landscape as seen below.

image via google

image via google

My husband always like the underneath of a porch ceiling to be sky blue, but it was convenient to find this picture showing a blue ceiling with a white house and gray floor.  Pretty much exactly what we were planning.

image via google

image via google

Final decision = white on white, gray floor (and stairs) with a hint of sky blue on the ceilings.

Now for the door….

Front door

Front door

 

 


Weekend Progress 1

Back to our latest labor of love, the little house in Arkansas.  We call it “Addie’s House” since that’s the last person who lived there, she’d be my kids’ great-great grandmother.  Since Addie’s passing the house has seen some renters come and go but for the past decade it’s been left to get reclaimed by nature, just slowly breaking down.

Not on our watch!  So the first BIG step was the metal roof to stop the major leaks, big critters and such.  I don’t have a handy picture before the roof went on but it was a hefty project.  Next dire need was the front porch, one more round of a heavy, hot summer followed by a cold, wet winter and we’d probably need to rebuild the whole thing.  So to buy a little time we decided on a nice fresh coat of prime and paint.  Sure we could have just painted but primer is a bit more kid friendly and a good way to get them involved.

The family that wears overalls together, works together!

The family that wears overalls together, works together!

While the kids primed my husband and I sanded and then we all chipped in the to cover the porch floor with a nice fresh coat.

Say it with me: roll up, roll down. more paint, roll up, roll down.

Say it with me: roll up, roll down. more paint, roll up, roll down.

Nice difference, yes?

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Since it can’t all be work and playing is more fun we had our first family camping session  …..which turns out is quite a lot of work.

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Just steps from our day’s labor we set up our house for the evening, or houses as it were.  We made dinner – cheese, water crackers and salami, cold beer for the adults, sparkling lemonade for the kids, apples and s’mores for dessert followed by star gazing for our night’s entertainment.  As the sun went down the cooler temps were a welcome relief as we all fell into our sleeping bags not long after the moon and stars made their appearance.

For our next round of work we’ll be diving into the fun topic of removing mildew from the house’s exterior…..don’t even get me started on the interior!

P.S. A few more snap shots

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A walk in the woods behind Addie's house.

A walk in the woods behind Addie’s house.

 

100 year old pines and oaks.

100 year old pines and oaks.

These little pieces of moss are scattered throughout the forest, we have naming continents but this heart was too good to pass up.

These little pieces of moss are scattered throughout the forest, we have fun trying to spot the shapes of continents but this heart was too good to pass up.


Getting Dirty

Growing up in a city I associated the word “dirty” with other people’s germs, your shopping cart that’s been touched by 100 other people, that guy who spit a loogie on the park bench, the money the cashier handed back to you – DIRTY.  In rural life there’s a whole different kind of dirty, one that’s associated with time outside, hard labor, on-going, never ending projects.

Me getting VERY dirty

Me getting VERY dirty

The past few weekends I’ve been able to spend time out in the country doing some hard, dirty work and I’ve found it’s cleansed my soul like nothing else.  NOTHING ELSE.  More than a bikram yoga class, more than a 5 mile run, more than a hike in the forests of France – pulling on a pair of work gloves and preceding to work until your soaked with sweat seems to be a little recipe for perfect contentment.  There’s a satisfaction associated with the piles of your labor, a newly weeded garden, a freshly painted porch, a rebuilt fence that no exercise regimen can compete with.  So I’m very excited to announce that my husband and I are embarking on a very dirty project.

The house project

The house project

Say hello to my husband’s great grandmother’s house.  Built in the early 1900’s to stand the tests of time we’ve decided to bring this little beauty back to the land of the living.  We’ve got a whisper of a budget and child labor so please don’t expect any Smitten Studio or Young House Love level of documentation or know-how as we undertake this enormous project.  But do expect a bit of Green Acres humor such as my son running with complete abandon right in a yellow jacket nest (4 stings later he’s learned how to not run through a field with high brush) or me unearthing a rattlesnake 3 hours into day one of our project though my husband who has spent years in this locale had never seen one venomous snake – Lucky me!

Meet the Western Pygmy Rattlesnake - my not new friend

Meet the Western Pygmy Rattlesnake – my not new friend

We are sure to gain a few bumps and bruises in the process but I’m hopeful we’ll not only survive but really LIVE!  Wish us luck.