House Renovation Updates

What makes it a remodel vs a renovation? I was thinking of that in the middle of drafting this post.

Well, whatever it is, we are in the middle of it! This weekend we really hit some major strides and milestones. I unpacked all the plastic sheeting in the kitchen…that has been up since we took the wall down in February! We decided that there were enough steps between now and actually demoing the backsplash and counters that we could use our stove and hood for a while. Major horray for not cooking on a hot plate for awhile!

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We are also making huge changes in the living room. Matt has the fireplace (new hearth, mantle) framed out and covered in plywood. Brick veneer has been selected and is on order. We ordered sample tile for the kitchen and are narrowing it down. The table saw from the Tool Library has been working hard in the driveway and Matt is getting lots of practice. Next up: cabinets and cubbies for the kitchen! And a new light, and, and and…the list goes on!

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Two thirds of our potatoes are harvested, garlic is curing in the laundry room, bush beans are coming in by the handful and the Spanish beans are less than a week away from first harvest. Kale is going bonkers but areas are plagued by powdery mildew (boo!), and zucchini has been rolling in for breakfast, dinner and chocolate chip zucchini bread. Raspberries are a daily treat. And we have so many sweet peas for bouquets everywhere. We are in harvest time and it feels amazing.

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While the rest of the country is facing a massive heat wave, the temps this year have been much lower and wetter. It is a welcome break from last summer. The grass is even still green!

And we are working on a name for our little farm. A few names have come up, but we are trying really hard to make it just right.

Happy July…we are already counting down the days till fall vacations arrive! Better get moving on these house projects…or renovations whatever they are called.

Fundamental Orchardist

When Matt and I got married, I learned that my new last name meant “orchardist” in French. How cool is that?

Even cooler, I have been bit by the orchard bug and am embracing this title as part of my identity. Earlier this spring we placed our first fruit tree order. A few apples, a pear, mulberry and peach. Somewhat unique varieties but our choices were made though quite virgin eyes.

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Planting these trees brought me more joy that I could have fathomed they would. I grew up with my dad’s collection of fruit trees, but was never that interested. Now I am hooked. Last week three more trees joined out orchard and I am counting down the days until we (someday) buy the land next door and have more space to plant. I have a list of old, rare heirloom apple trees that I want to plant and eat.

So far on our homestead we have:

Apple:

  • Spartan
  • Northern Spy
  • Honeycrisp
  • Enterprise

 

Pear:

  • Ubileen
  • Red Sensation Bartlett

 

Peach:

  • Reliance

 

 

10 Years

This past weekend we celebrated 10 years of life since high school. Can it have really been that long ago? We had an informal meet up at Boundary Bay in Bellingham on Friday night, and then the official reunion Saturday. It was wonderful to see and catch up with so many people in person. I’ll admit, I was skeptical on how much I would enjoy the reunion. With Facebook and Instagram I have a pretty good idea of what everyone is up to. What I did not expect was how much fun it would be to reconnect with those people that I actually don’t talk with much. Friends, well, maybe not even, but rather classmates that are only on the fringe of my social spectrum now were so much fun to get to know as adults! Our lives are different, the social groups from Ferndale High are gone, and it was just plain fun.

Matt and I got many comments on our homesteading life on Vashon (made me question if I over-Instagram things!) We talked to friends that single and married, with and without kids, living far away or still in Ferndale. It was great to see people and reconnect in person. The class of 2005 really was a wonderful group of people.IMG_4538[1]

So a trip to Ferndale for the class reunion also meant visiting my family, and the slew of activity that those usually entail. This time the focus was deck demo. Their 17ish year old cedar deck has finally been given the boot to make way for maintenance free composite. Dad and Matt were crowbarring, unscrewing and sawing away for two days, and have the blisters to prove it. I helped by trimming and moving boards, planting tomatoes, and delivering lemonade.

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Speaking of lemons, we brought home two new hens: Lemon and Penny! My mom found them from the kids of a friend that needed to rehome school-project chicks. We happily added these two ladies to our flock and are now up to 8 + Dude rooster. They were very patient in the hot (super packed!) car ride back to Vashon.IMG_4536[1]IMG_4537[1]

We also adopted a sea kayak! A family friend was looking to rehome one of their singles and we happily took it off their hands. (Bonus: it matches the mini!) Unfortunately it is still in Ferndale since we were not quite set up to bring it home with our current roof rack setup. Hopefully we can bring it down soon though and get her in the water!

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We also picked strawberries. And went to the dairy for ice cream. Busy enough?IMG_4526[1]IMG_4525[1]

Sunday night we pulled into the ferry line just as a boat was pulling up. I swear, living on the island gives you magical ferry timing (knock on wood). 30 minutes later we pulled up to our little house, let the chickens out, pet the cats, unloaded 17 lbs of strawberries, watered the garden, made dinner, ate while we watched an episode of Parenthood on Netflix, and finally collapsed into bed. And you know what? It was one of the most rejuvenating weekends I have had in a long time.

Rules of the Farm

With nearly 15 hours of daylight right now we can put in some majorly long days in the garden. We have found a few ground rules (found through trial and error of course) help keep things smooth, on track, and productive around the farm.

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  • Drink water. We always have a water bottle in the garden with us and remind each other to use it! No passing out or headaches allowed.
  • Wear eye/ear protection always. Matt and I both make a point to emphasize this so it becomes second nature. Safety glasses may not look too sexy, but have saved our eyes many times from routine disturbances like flying soil, and more extreme things like flying nails or brackets when hanging the fence.
  • Eat breakfast. We take time to eat before we hit the garden. Again, no headaches or passing out (or getting grumpy) allowed.
  • Team decisions on project priorities. We learned very quickly that we can have different opinions and visions for what needs to get done when. This could lead to conflict with unmet expectations on what was going to get done. So now, we talk about it…a lot. We prioritize and stick to the list. When it gets derailed, we agree on when to take the alternate path and when to keep pressing on. Lots and lots of communication is key!
  • Take breaks. Matt and I are always checking in on how things are going. When one of us needs a break, we take it. No “just one more post” or “let’s just finish this”…we take the break. Drink lemonade, eat a snack, sit down. There is no shame in not powering through on our farm.
  • Always put the tools away. Always. The shovels are hung, extension cords coiled up and hand tools stored in the shed or basement. Always.
  • Laughter is not optional. There must always be teasing, laughing and fun! Even on those long, hard days when we are sore to the bone.

The result? More work gets done, fewer toes get stepped on and we are happy and healthy at the end of the day.

Farm Weekend: Fry Jack and Chicken Surgery

While the rest of the country is getting pounded with cold weather, here in the PNW we are basking in a very early Spring! 55 degrees, sunshine and everything is popping up in the garden. Our hens are laying much faster…today was our second three egg day! One dark brown, one light brown and a very pretty pale blue. We are so curious what color Mary (our youngest, not yet laying) will add to the collection.

This weekend we made another batch of fry jack. Wow, this Belize breakfast is going to be added to our normal weekend rotation of special feasts. The goal for this batch was to taste our honey. We brought back 3 different types of honey from Belize, and added one from a past trip to Grenada to round out the Caribbean taste test. Each one was so unique! Not at all like what you find in a traditional American grocery store. And all really good. The fry jack was beyond amazing.

How could we top that morning! Surgery!

This poor adopted flock of chickens has had it’s share of challenges. I keep trying to tell Matt that raising chickens is not usually this challenging. They were just not well taken care of at their past home and we are dealing with the consequences. This time around it was our head hen, Helen. We noticed a lump on the side of her toe, and did the obvious: Google search. We came to two conclusions: it was bumblefoot (worst case) or just an infection (possibly better). Either way, it needed to be taken out. I will spare you the details, but the rest of our Sunday involved watching YouTube videos of chicken foot surgery, sanitizing a bunch of tools, and team Frugé getting the job done. Matt was the official doctor while I was on patient holding duty. Good thing…I nearly passed out mid-surgery. Lukily I knew it was coming and lay on the floor to recover before it getting bad.

I am happy to report that Helen is back with her flock, looking happy as always, and cleanly re-bandaged with clean dressings as of this afternoon. She has even laid an egg! What a trooper.

It was a long, exhausting day, but we feel really good about how we are caring for our chickens. It has been quite the learning curve, and we have had to really test our comfort zones, but in the end it is all worth it.

Those 3 eggs we collected today were like thank you prizes.

Our New Roo

Coming home from vacation in an ideal world has everything is as you left it, animals happy, bed made, with a little time to unwind before heading back to real life. This was not our reentry scenario from Belize. We arrived back in Seattle late on Saturday night and crashed at an airport hotel. The next morning I headed off to help host a baby shower for a dear friend (even though all I really wanted to do was go home!) and Matt ferried back to Vashon. What greeted him were two happy, buffet fat cats mewing for love, 4 clucking hens…and a rooster on his last breath.

Not a fun situation to find. Poor Matt called me and we both agreed that Cesar needed to be put down since he was clearly not in a state to recover. We suspect that he (like our other gal Holly) was nursing some injury from before we adopted them. His wing was not very functional and towards the end of January was losing his balance. Poor guy.

The ladies looked lost without their leader, and honestly we like having a rooster around to protect the flock when they are ranging. So we set out on a quest to find our new roo. Luckily roosters seem to be in plentiful supply…even nice ones.

There were at least 6 offered up to us on the island and this weekend we picked up our new dude. He was the first one we visited, and were really impressed by his size (he is HUGE!) with a beautiful bright red comb and waddle, and was happily eating snacks out of little kids hands. Niceness is key (although this could change, we do know that) so the interaction with kids was a good sign. We saw a few other roosters but they were all bantams…although cute, they were not well socialized and we like the size of the first guy.

That evening we returned after dusk to pick him up. He spent the night in a cage in the lower part of the coop, and in the morning we were greeted by a very confused guy calling out his new home location to the world. We let him out and the ladies all trooped down the stairs.

We were prepared for a fight, or fear, or pretty much anything…what we saw was Helen (our head hen) immediately run up to the rooster, bow down, and then follow him everywhere! All the ladies are smitten. It is too funny.

We spent all of Sunday out in the yard (heck yea, 55 degree February!) and he loves to follow us around. During lunch (in the yard) he was constantly begging for handouts. He likes Fritos. No name yet, but I think Matt is leaning towards, Goliath.

He is settling in with the hens and we are so happy have him on our homestead. The girls are much more organized, and we feel better about them being safe free ranging during the day. Pre-dawn alarm clock crows are becoming normal, and we just really like our dude.

And eggs…man oh man are the girls happy to have more daylight hours! Yesterday was our first 3 egg day…3/4 are laying now. Rita lays beautiful blue eggs, Helen a dark brown (sometimes spotted) and Belle a light brown. Beautiful and so so yummy!

Homemade Raw Milk Butter & Biscuits

I have been infatuated with the idea of raw milk since I learned that Vashon has it’s own certified raw milk dairy. Raw milk is challenging to come by for most people, and there are MANY opinions about it, but after lots of research, I decided it was something I wanted to try. This weekend Matt and I visited the farm stand at Cornerstone Farm on Vashon and picked out a half gallon of raw milk to take home and play with. We really wanted to make butter, and had no idea how much the cream on top of a half-gallon of milk would yield. It was all an experiment!
When we got the milk home, we skimmed off the cream and left it to culture on the counter overnight. The next afternoon, we pulled out the kitchen aid mixer and poured in the cream. We had read a ton of different blog posts about making your own butter, and the estimated times varied greatly. I guess that is what you get when you are working with real, raw ingredients! Each batch will be unique. We beat the cream for nearly an hour before the butter separated from the buttermilk, but the results were worth it! We washed the butter in butter cloth, and formed it into a ball for the fridge. Yield: roughly ¼ cup butter and 1 cup buttermilk. Yum!

Naturally, we had to make buttermilk biscuits to fully enjoy the fruits of our labor. We ate chicken and gravy with fresh buttermilk biscuits for dinner and the fresh butter was out of this world. We are totally hooked! Next time, I will take more pictures with my real camera, since these were just snapped on my phone.