Future beef

I finally got up the courage to call my dairy neighbor to see if he might have any upcoming unclaimed bull calves, as Big Sister has expressed a desire to bottle raise one to sell.

To my surprise he had one ready and waiting, so I readied the playhouse barn and got a bag of milk replacer for $73 (!!!) on the way. We loaded him into the van livestock transport unit and brought him home.

The girls keep calling him Star, for his forehead patch (Little Artist just finished reading Farmer Boy), but I call him Stew Stu.

Yesterday another neighbor called and said, “do you have your gun handy?” That’s another story but what kind of question is that? Duh! πŸ™‚

Today my dairy neighbor (who is quite famous among the Jersey industry) called and said he just had another bull calf born, did we want it? I assessed the facilities (yep, I can divide the playhouse with a pallet), and called him with the affirmative.

I went and bought another bottle and stopped by my favorite organic farm where I find I can self-serve organic chicken grains! Yes! I got six bags of mix, and a bag of peas for added protein (for my meat birds). And bigger biceps.

I thought I was all out of dinner themed calf names but I surprised myself and came up with Patty. Haha! Here he is. I don’t know what the girls are calling him.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone far, far from my neglected MacBook.


But I Love It

I posted this photo on Instagram the other day. I got NO likes on it, until now, two days in (one person likes it).

It’s how I store the razor blades I use for cleaning egg from a sticky frying pan, etc. Kitchen tools I use frequently and keep handy. This is my new unfinished window sill above my kitchen sink.

And there is just something fabulous about this photo, to me. I don’t know if its the weird subject, the vintage treatment, the composition…

But I love it, even if few of my Instagram followers do, so I’m sharing it here. Enjoy (or not. πŸ™‚ )

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone far, far from my neglected MacBook.

Firing the Decorator

I really need to. I’m just not sure who to hire instead. The decorator is me, and I have absolutely no skill in this department.

Of course, I took some advice from some folks on houzz, and that was a mistake too. πŸ™‚ I have submitted my ideas to facebook and gotten feedback. It still isn’t working.

My first decision was to make the new cabinets around the oven/fridge area a distressed black. I love that look. I took a cupboard door (I planned to keep the existing cabinets the light green), a chunk of countertop, a piece of flooring to Lowe’s and picked out an appropriate black (remember, the ‘chicken crap green‘). I painted the face trim right after I installed it.

blackish cabinetry

blackish cabinetry

Wanting to do something bold, perhaps, on the pantry door and/or schoolroom door, I decided the red wall would need a change (already a lot of colors going on, right?).



Some houzzers thought a cream on the wall would make the green cabinets pop, so I also selected a proper cream color that worked well with all my colors/items. Or, it did on a palette.

IMG_1222So after primer, I painted.

Cream would make the green pop? Or not...

Cream would make the green pop? Or not…

This seems to be the area of the most problem. This is the farthest edge of the kitchen away from the new cabinet/pantry, and it flows into the dining room. There is no dark elements here to contrast like there will be at the other end. Ugh.

So I went to the hardware store and grabbed a handful of paint chips and started seeking advice from facebook (don’t criticize. It’s better than advice from myself).

Against the counters

Against the counters

The large dark paint chip is the (new) cabinet color, the green with the hole is the existing cabinets, and the rest was open for discussion. Several leaned to the warm browns, several to the greiges. I thought it might be brown overkill with the floor..

Against the floor

Against the floor

I ended up at Lowe’s and tried again…

Lowe's has fluorescent lights. :P

Lowe’s has fluorescent lights. πŸ˜›

I really like the rust color (almost the same as what the wall was) and thought maybe the pantry door or the island could handle that.. I went with one of the gray colors.



And the next day got to work on the walls. Again.

Gray wall and counters buried.

Gray wall and counters buried.

And I hated it. Again.

I submitted to houzz again before this, where everyone said, “yeah, why would anyone suggest cream?!” and I haven’t gone back to show them the gray. Again, I think it’s the lack of the dark paint over here that messes me up. And against my small backsplash it looks weird. I filled my pinterest kitchen board full of palettes that include my light green.

This is how it sits right now. I haven’t given up, but I’ve put it on hold. I finally got hubby to help me rip a piece of 3/4″ plywood (which I’d have been playing with instead of the paint, had it been in workable sized pieces). I built a couple roll-out drawers for below the oven, and ordered doors and drawer fronts.

At this point I’m considering abandoning my preference for a distressed black cabinet. Maybe I’ll do the new stuff in the same light green as the rest? Make the wall a darkish brown? Do a rust color or ?? on the pantry door? Could I get away with making the island in the same darkish brown as the wall? I lean towards changing the island to dark since I’m cooking on top of it, and I have children, and it WILL get messy. But then again, I’m fired, so what I think doesn’t matter. Too bad there wasn’t a design school nearby that needed a homework challenge.

2013 Seed Order

Last year my garden mostly failed. I ended up moving cows and irrigating the pasture, and that turned out to be very awesome, but also exceptionally time-consuming (it’s called “management intensive grazing” for a reason). As a result, I did very little weeding, never got a good watering system figured out, and several major crops did really poorly: I planted TONS of carrots – when it was too warm and 99% never even germinated; tomatoes bore a few, but not enough to fill a freezer; green beans never really produced. I got good amounts of squash, and (surprisingly) broccoli, kale and celery.

This year I ordered from only one place, and it wasn’t Territorial Seed… Now that Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has an (open-pollinated!) purple carrot, I was happy to send all my business their way.

IMG_1044I tried to be realistic, based on last year’s problems, and just get some basic items. My friend is promising tomato plants (or I buy them from the mennonite nursery that sprays god-knows-what on everything twice weekly).

I did splurge on a watermelon, chose a new squash (they have TONS to choose from), red carrots to go with the purple (why grow orange? you can get them anywhere!), and got a few herbs. We’ll see how it goes – IF I can get working on it in the midst of all this kitchen mess!

Pantry Works!

I have a working pantry!

Once Hubby had the door in the right spot, I put up a bit of sheetrock.

Outer drywall

Outer drywall

Desperate to have a place to put some of the piles and boxes of things, I put shelving between the studs where I’d drywalled.

I might not have let the primer dry before putting the space to work.

I might not have let the primer dry before putting the space to work.


Above the door

Then I started working on the main interior of the pantry. Shelves! I’m not good with deep shelves (messy, disorganized), so I made most of them 9″ deep, except for one high shelf of 12″.

IMG_1197I painted (primer, really) the gun cabinet and all the shelves and walls. I pieced my countertop back together (I intend for that area to be an appliance garage) and cut a piece to fit (from the cooktop cut-out) to make a small workable countertop inside the pantry. I used an old whittled tree branch from the garage (?) as a ‘table leg.’ I also had to fill in the back corner with underlayment and a scrap of vinyl.

IMG_1196I may or may not have cannibalized the laundry-pantry for my lumber needs…



As soon as I could, I got to work stocking it, and so far it’s fantastic! There is still a lot of outer stuff to deal with (mud/tape/corner bead/paint), but the usability factor is top-notch!


I hope the gun cabinet holds up…

Lower left side

Lower left side

I LOVE having all these between-the-studs shelves. And even the rustic plywood and primer.. It reminds me of a ‘grandma’s pantry’ and I have no problem with that. πŸ™‚

Oh, I also got my cookbook shelf operable! Just waiting for some upper molding along the ceiling.

I love how the tallest book fits! That NEVER happens!

I love how the tallest book fits! That NEVER happens!

Kitchen Progress!

Thank God for progress. Really. This place is a D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R. It always runs a little on the edge of chaos, but right now it is just ripped apart. We did in fact remove the stove, tear out the nearby cabinets and the pretty tile,

IMG_1060And then the whole wall.


And then some more cabinetry.

Oh look, oatmeal!

Oh look, oatmeal!

At this point things were a terrible mess. All the contents of the drawers and cupboards had been drug out (in the case of the drawers, everything was still in them, they were just stacked in a corner of the kitchen). I had spent a saturday morning carefully removing my roll-out drawers from the cabinet that is missing here, and re-installing them in the cabinet under the cooktop in the foreground (thank goodness they were the same size cabinets!). Of course, the contents that had been under the cooktop were (are?) boxed up and being kicked around somewhere.

Hubby framed in the pantry walls and played with the electrical, and I started on the cabinet.


The big dark boxy thing in the corner is a home-built gun cabinet (accessible from the schoolroom storage room on the other side of the wall). It’s OLD barn wood. Matches the shelves in the schoolroom, I’m afraid.

I really have no idea how to build cabinetry. What I CAN do is visualize what I want, figure out the first piece, and figure out how to attach it. Then I stand back and stare, cock my head to the side for some time, measure something and go back out to the table saw or chop saw. I come back in, install that piece, cock my head to the side…. ad naseum. It’s not a cabinet that is built THEN installed.. It’s piece-by-piece built in, and the rear of the cabinets is the wall. Oh well.

IMG_1130I used the specs for the oven to make the width and height of the oven recess. I even bumped it up a bit higher than they recommend, because I thought it would be nice that way. πŸ™‚ (that’s something I’m loving about all this. CUSTOMIZATION!) The nice mennonite cabinet guy across the pasture is on a first name basis with me and has been very forthcoming with advice and material, answering my clueless questions with patience. By the way, “standard” face trim at the top is 2 1/4″, between cupboards or drawers is 1 3/4″ and at the bottom it’s 1 1/2″. Just FYI.

IMG_1132I had at first considered enclosing the refrigerator fully, but once I got going (and cocked my head enough) I realized that the wood along the outer edge of the fridge would be flush against the edge of the schoolroom doorway, and I didn’t want to do that. I settled for an upper cabinet (super-deep, like the rest of it) and figured I could attach it to the ceiling. At the last minute I sketched this out, adding a cookbook shelf along the left side.

Front view, doors open

Front view, doors open

It would be a little weird, but it appealed to me. So I measured my tallest cookbook, and went to work. πŸ™‚


Hubby’s electrical in the pantry

I got a small bundle of pergo-type flooring from a builder’s excess that I thought I could use to make vertical dividers above the oven. The upper shelf placement was determined after I (you guessed it) measured my widest cutting board. I primered the interior and as soon as it was dry I loaded it up with my appropriate cookware. Anything for a bit of usability!


And Hubby installed the door!

When I finished the face-frame parts, I had to decide on colors. It was long and dramatic and wicked, but I decided on a green-based black (Valspar Olive Suede, a.k.a. Chicken Crap Green) for this.

IMG_1171I intend to build some drawers in the lower recess, and am waiting for a quote from the cabinetmaker on unfinished doors and drawer fronts. And, the oven is installed and working! We had a lot of oven-door drama, but did in fact finally get it together mostly properly. But the only picture of it I have is a close-up of the bacon I was broiling as soon as it was hooked up. πŸ™‚

Kitchen Plan

I haven’t posted much because, well, I’ve spent all that time actually WORKING on the project. And what a project it is…!

I used IKEA’s room planner to sketch out my kitchen, installing the windows and cabinets and appliances where they exist and where I imagine them, and then used the fun “3D” mode to actually SEE the kitchen. (Why don’t any of these sites offer light green for the cabinetry?) And then I took really crummy photos of my computer screen. πŸ™‚

I’m sure you remember the ‘before:’

100_3556What I at first planned was to turn the ‘stove corner’ into a corner pantry. Of course, my plan didn’t stop there… We realized we’d need a wall oven to go with our cooktop, and figured we’d put it in the island under the cooktop or something. And then I got to thinking: Wouldn’t it be nice if the oven was up higher? And gosh I’d hate to lose one of those lower cabinets’ storage…

So I thought of installing it in the space to the right of the fridge. Otherwise, between giant fridge and pantry, that little hole might become cave-like anyway… Perhaps we could just remove that little microwave shelf and box it in….

Or rip out the whole wall of cabinetry – from above the fridge to the lower cabinet and countertop… And build my own! So it looked like this, in my mind:

Ikea + Photoshop = Not too bad…
So, learn cabinetry. No problem…

Design Dilemma

{Here is another previously-thought-scheduled post that didn’t really make it here. We’ll try again.}

The overall plan we’re working on with our kitchen has a two-fold purpose. The primary purpose is to make cooking-with-children a little more doable, and the happy side effect is that we can build a pantry in the corner that is now the stove, freeing up the remainder of the laundry room. The dilemma has to do with this part:

IMG_0965blogThat spot between the (future) pantry and the fridge is the center of my question. The way it’s situated, the only light comes in from the north-facing window above the sink (far right of the sketch), and from the patio doors and window in the dining room, which are far past the lower right of the sketch. The fridge looks huge and imposing because it is. πŸ™‚ It reaches beyond the front edges of the counters by a good bit. Β I am worried that area in the red circle will become cave-like, building a tall wall along one side of it.

One option is to get smart with lighting (which is probably impossible for me), but the other option we’re looking at would be fairly involved. That is, we would remove the base cabinet and counter, remove all the upper cabinetry including what is over the fridge, and build a floor-to-ceiling cabinet where we can install the wall oven at eye level. Drawers could go underneath and the deep cabinet above it could have vertical dividers for storing cookie sheets and such. But then I wonder… making such a huge structure (the counter-depth cabinets would continue above the fridge) on that whole side of the kitchen… would that become very imposing? I would lose the cute little shelf, and certainly the only tile left to be seen would be along the wall the sink is on. Would I lose all focal points? Would there be anywhere to rest your eye? I am just not design-oriented and these are like questions without answers to me.

Also, could I actually do that? Build real-life cabinets, that reach the ceiling? Hmm…

Wall Oven

{For some reason, this post didn’t actually post. It shows I had it scheduled to post a month ago, but it’s still sitting here as a draft. Guess I’ll post it now.}

While my new cooktop languished in the garage, I started praying for a wall oven. New was not an option… Low end brands are easily over $1000, and I have come to depend, these last 12 years, on my convection oven with 3 racks and all that. It could be narrower than the standard 30″, but I really love that convection…

Craigslist wasn’t turning up anything worthwhile, here or at Gigi’s, so I turned to Ebay. There’s a lot of nice ovens available there, but most of them are up in the big numbers. I did find a couple that were reasonable. I wasn’t familiar with the brands (could be a good thing), and one seemed just about right. Twenty seven inches, convection, it was definitely used, but they were asking a reasonable $200. However, freight wasn’t listed and my request for a quote went a day without a response. I sent another message and got a quote – $225 if delivered to a business address (Hubby’s work will do!). I called Hubby and we prayed about it and I clicked “Buy It Now.”

This is the ebay photo:

ebay photoShortly after buying it, ebay suggested similar items, like this:

Price astonishment!

Price astonishment!

THAT’s what I was getting?! I had researched enough to know Dacor was a shmancy brand, but THAT was really something. Same item, also used… crazy.

And then it got here!



Not cool.

Not cool.

So, that’s about where we are. The freight company sent me a claim form, and I anguished over it all weekend before calling them for advice, at which point they informed me that their liability is based on the weight, and this would be worth $27. I had been scouring the internet for (of course, discontinued) parts, and just that steel front of the door – not the glass – was nearly $300 (if you could find it).

Then I had Hubby wire it up (in the garage) just to make sure it actually WORKED besides being broken. It *seemed* to – you could tell it to broil or convect or bake, but the heating elements didn’t warm up, and he wasn’t getting power across the two legs (uh, electrician talk and I totally don’t get it).

Oh, ALSO, that weekend, our well pump died and we had no water. At least, we didn’t until we traded $1725 for a new well pump. Oi.

Starting to doubt our ability to listen to God in the slightest, I contacted Β the seller of the oven. Thankfully, there is a logistics company (between the seller and the freight company) who might be the people to handle damage claims and such. In other (what I hope is) good news, the seller seems very willing to make it right so far, and has offered to ship me a new door – the whole door – from another oven (you can see more of them in the back of the ebay photo). It’s apparently en route. He claimed the oven was in use and operating within a couple weeks of shipping it to me, so I called a local appliance repair guy who talked me through a few checks. I couldn’t wire it back up, but when Hubby got home, HE wired it up, and the little high-temp reset button was all that needed ‘fixed!’ It worked!

Maybe soon I can take a picture of an oven without shattered glass. And I’ll tell you about my pantry door, and kitchen window…

Pantry Door

Some years ago I read the Duggar family’s book, 20 and Counting, and while some of it fell flat (really, they eat like that?!?), I was encouraged by their testimonies of God’s provision. I’ve read books and talked to people with whom God deals in amazing ways.. In obedience they show up at an airport, some stranger gives them money or a ticket, they’re trying to go to point Y but are diverted to point X, where during an unplanned delay they take a walk and someone walks up and asks for them by name, etc. etc.. I don’t mean to belittle that kind of miraculous occurrence, but I’ve almost never come away with my faith built – more feeling like, “wow, God does NOT work that way with me” or “I can’t even imagine doing that” (which I recognize is a fault in my own mind and heart, but so it is). The Duggars had tales of circumstances and opportunities lining up to give them what they needed, even though it wouldn’t have looked like it was even possible.

I feel kindof like that with my kitchen remodel. Things have just come together, a piece here, a part there, until we might just have something worthwhile to put together in the end. πŸ™‚ It happened that way with my pantry door, which I hadn’t thought a *whole* lot about, aside from pinning this on pinterest:

IMG_0961So that this corner:

Stove Corner

Stove Corner

Can look kinda like this:

Or this:

As my plan showed:

corner sketch

corner sketch

I was shopping for some black iron pipe so that our new(ish) propane cooktop could actually get propane at Lowe’s, and on my way from the plumbing (where I rejected any choice of faucet) to the lumber (why not get the wood to frame in the pantry!), I passed the door section. Set out on a cart were some scratch-and-dent clearance.

Including a little skinny door. Knotty pine. Twenty-four inches wide, and pre-hung. The frame/jamb was a little bowed at the bottom, but I stood it up to see if I could still fit through it after a winter of sitting and eating. πŸ™‚ I wasn’t sure about the size, until I remembered my iphone and my pinterest board with the little dimensions pic. The door was 24″. Just right! It was normally $200 (solid pine, if you can call pine solid, and with a carved/grooved shape quite like that light blue pantry door above), but on the clearance was marked down to $70. I called Hubby (for the umpteenth time that trip) to talk it over with him. He gave me the general go-ahead if I thought it would work, so I loaded it onto my big rolling cart.

I didn’t know that it was actually half that price. It rang up at $35 and *again* I felt that humbling wonder, that I-really-don’t-deserve-this-and-why-would-He-care gratitude that I should be used to by now, as good as God is.

With the kids at home with hubby, I didn’t even have to strap the pipe and lumber and door to the roof of the van. It all fit inside. πŸ™‚ IMG_0981

We’re almost ready to ‘do it.’ We have most of the important stuff (we’re waiting on getting a vent hood – that will be a big project in itself), and just need to get some time and courage to dive in.

Actually, at the time of this writing, we have managed to cut a big hole in the island and plop the cooktop into it. Hubby has drilled a hole in the floor for the propane pipe and my dad shipped us a gauge to pressure-test the system after we get it put together.

I’m still working on a design dilemma with the oven. I can show you my ‘virtual kitchen’ next time.