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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Summer Reading List


I just finished two loooong books, so it’s time to start in on some new ones!

Home Is Where My People Are: The Roads That Lead Us to Where We Belong

First up, Blogger Book Club is reading this in May. Feel free to join us!





Nobody's Cuter than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship

I read “The Antelope in the Living Room” by Melanie Shankle earlier this year and loved it, so I’m adding this memoir of friendship by the same author to my summer reading list.





You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You

You may not know this, but I’m kind of a nerd for pyschology.  And I’m sort of obsessed with capsule wardrobes.  I’m excited to read this one.





Easily Amused

According to the book description, this is a “light-hearted romance.” Sounds like perfect summer reading to me.






A man and woman survive a plane crash and are rescued two years later, but there is some mystery surrounding the fate of the other crash victims. This one piqued my interest.





White Picket Fences: A Novel

Life is not as it seems.  Isn’t that always the truth? This book delves into one family’s hidden secrets.






Have you read anything good lately? What should I add to the list?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Closet Makeover Part 1

AKA: Why There are Paint Splatters in my Hair and Caulk in my Cuticles

closet makeoverI’ve been meaning to do something with this closet for a long time.

I mean, let’s face it.  The 100-year-old plaster had seen better days.

The other day, I sorted little boy clothes and came up with 6 garbage bags full of 18 mos – 3T clothes to pass down to a cousin. And with the closet partially cleaned out, I decided it was time to tackle the project.

Luckily, a friend decided to surprise me by bringing over dessert, and I roped her in to helping.  We set up a workshop in the kitchen where we cut scraps of paneling to size with my jigsaw .

The paneling was leftover from our entryway makeover. I have no doubt that this project would have been 40 times easier (because it would have require about 40 fewer cuts) if we’d started with full sheets of paneling, but then it wouldn’t have been FREE!


These pictures give you a good idea of what we started with. I know all of you with new construction (or even less than 100 year old construction) are totally jealous of us old house owners right now.


2015-05-14 14_55_562015-05-14 18_31_11












The closet measured roughly 34 deep by 57 wide, which is actually a pretty good size for a 1908 farmhouse. In a matter of a couple hours, we covered the walls with paneling, using a finish nailer to nail straight through the plaster and into the lathe behind it.IMG_2259

Then, we used 1x2’s to trim out the corners, again nailing them in with the finish nailer (and my handy dandy portable air compressor .)

One of the challenges was that none of the corners were square, or the walls even straight.  The northeast corner was 34 1/2 inches from the mid-board to the top, and the northwest corner was 35 1/2! We did a lot of measuring and a lot of re-cutting to get everything to fit.

not square corners

It looked pretty rough at one point and my husband was skeptical (which is his general reaction to my projects.) But after trim, caulk , and paint, you barely notice the seams.

caulk and trim

It’s always nice to have help with these types of projects, too.












Next up – DIY shelves!


I have more painting to do as I install the shelves, and then I will finish caulking the seams, but it’s already a LOT better, don’t you think?

Crumbling plaster

(Now, if I could just get the paint splatters out of my hair and the caulk out of my fingernail cuticles…the price we pay for DIY!)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Love Your Little House: Home Tour and 6 Tips


I love house tours.  I love seeing how people use their space, how they make small rooms work for them, and how their décor flows throughout the house.

So when my friend posted pictures of this house, for sale by owner, on facebook, I immediately asked if I could feature it on my blog, because there are so many great lessons for Little House owners.

Lesson #1: Your little house CAN have an eat-in kitchen. In this case, the homeowners used a custom built island with a live-edge top and comfy bar stools to create more counter and eating space in this relatively small kitchen.

live edge island

Lesson #2: Smart furniture makes the most of a space. The living room is home to a small sofa with chaise, and a vintage dresser acts as the tv stand and provides a ton of storage.


Lesson 3: Vertical board and batten makes the ceiling look higher.

stained trim seating area

(And let’s take a moment to appreciate the natural stained trim…It doesn’t all have to be painted, folks!)

small dining room


Lesson 4: Small spaces can be glamorous.  The house may only have one bathroom, but it is GORGEOUS.

gray bathroom

And the gilded mirror in the tiny mudroom area is a show-stopper.

board and batten mudroom

Lesson 5: Have a little fun with your décor in the private spaces. I love this pink bed and stenciled wall.

stenciled wall11144949_782751300063_433267153871096710_n

Lesson 6: Extend your living quarters outside. This cozy little patio and playhouse make the outside space work for the whole family.


Thanks, Maggie, Joel and Cora, for sharing your home with us! It is great inspiration for the rest of us who live in and love Little Houses!


(By the way, we still don’t have bird flu! And the number of new cases seems to be slowing down.  Now we just need the gov’t to speed up their response plan. Thank you to all of you who shared last week’s post about how bird flu would affect my family farm.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Faith and Farming and Bird Flu

When we started considering raising turkeys, we were told it was a lifetime commitment. We couldn’t just try it out for a while and quit if we wanted. We were in it for the long haul.

And for the most part, our decision has paid off. We’ve had it good – truly been “living the dream.” Although Bart works long hours and has a lot of responsibility, we’re comfortable financially, and I’m able to prioritize flexibility and family over finances in my career. Our boys get to work side by side with their dad and learn the values that are important to us – hard work, dedication, and faith.IMG_9933

Faith. Farmers have to have faith. Our livelihoods are full of risk, but most of the time, we are able to keep the faith that everything will work out. Every spring, farmers take out loans and make an investment – one that’s riskier than almost any on Wall Street. They risk their family’s financial future on tiny little seeds in the ground, praying that the weather and pests cooperate so they will have a crop to harvest (and a return on their investment) in the fall.

As bird flu rages in Northern Iowa, we are trying to keep the faith. Like the grain farmers around us, we continue to make an investment in the future – every two months, we get a new flock of turkeys and try to have faith that nearly 6 months later, they’ll be healthy and ready to go to market.

The news seems to focus on the financial implications of the outbreak. And those are important. The poultry industry in Iowa is huge – we’re #1 in the nation for layer hens (eggs) and #9 for turkeys. Poultry eat corn and soybeans, which means that devastation of the industry could have drastic effects on grain farmers, too.

But what’s really at risk? Farms like mine – family farms who have been raising poultry for generations. If this epidemic continues, poultry farmers may not make it.IMG_6750

So is it worth the risk to keep raising turkeys? Should we put another new flock in our barns in a few weeks, or is it smarter to wait it out and see if the epidemic subsides?

The answer to that question is that we don’t have a choice anymore. We chose, in 2009, to raise turkeys for the rest of our lives. Instead of taking out a loan in the spring and hoping it pays off in the fall, we took out a loan for 5 new barns and hope to pay it off in 2019. We are committed to this, financially and emotionally.

If bird flu hit our farm, it would mean 12-18 months without income from the turkeys. We live off our turkey income, but we also use it to pay the debts we owe on our barns. Quite frankly, we can’t make loan payments if we don’t have healthy turkeys going to market.

Bart and I have been playing out the scenarios in our mind since we heard about the first outbreak in Minnesota, more than 2 months ago. What would we do? What equipment could we “liquidate” to help us make payments? What would we do if we go bankrupt?

We’re trying really, really hard to keep the faith and believe that bird flu will NOT hit our farm. We’re also trying really, really hard to stay positive about the outcome if it does.

2014-09-21 15_20_42

We could move to town, and live in a 1 story house with the washer and dryer on the main floor. Bart could have a “town job” where he would work normal hours and wouldn’t carry stress home with him (like when we were first married and he worked for the USDA.) I could get a full-time job – our boys will both be in school next year, so they don’t need me home during the day. The boys could ride their bikes to the park with their friends and play pick-up games of basketball with the neighbors.

But we couldn’t live where we’d have to drive by our farm – emotionally, we wouldn’t be able to handle seeing it regularly. It would just be too hard.

We’ll fight to the end for our farm. We will keep raising new flocks as long as we can. And if we get bird flu, we’ll do our damnedest to get through it and raise turkeys again. Because, as hard as it is at times, we have faith that everything will work out, and that the risks we take will someday pay off, hopefully in the form of a farm (and legacy) to pass down to the next generation of Iowa’s turkey farmers.

(Family photo by Joe Murphy)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Gardening Tips: Free, Green Weed Barrier

I am a thrifty gardener.  And this is one of my favorite thrifty tricks.

If you’ve ever used plastic or fabric weed fabric, you know that it just doesn’t work.  Sure, it’s okay for awhile, but after one season, you’re sunk.  You put mulch on top of it, the mulch breaks down and weeds grow in the mulch.  And you can’t just pull them, because the roots go down THROUGH the fabric, making a tangled mess of fabric and weeds.

My solution is a free, recycled option that works like weed barrier fabrics – by blocking sunlight from reaching the weeds – but without the problems.

free & green weed barrier

After 7 years of renovations, including all new siding and new windows, we were finally ready to begin landscaping the north side of the house.  Last fall, we had an electric line trenched in, and I bought a couple of bushes on clearance at Lowes and plopped them in the ground.


To get this area ready for mulch, I started by digging a trench outlining the new flower bed. Then, I sprayed the weeds inside the bed area with Roundup 5003110 Weed and Grass Killer III Ready-to-Use Trigger Spray, 1/2 Gallon .  This part is completely optional…you could, instead, pull the weeds in the bed, or hope to suffocate them with the weed barrier and mulch.

how to get rid of weeds

Next, I put down my weed barrier – recycled newspaper!

Overlapping the edges, I put down one layer at a time, spraying it with the hose to keep it in place while I worked.

recycle newspapers in the garden

After 5-7 layers, it was ready for the next step.

(Note: It’s tempting to just unfold the newspaper and lay down all 7 layers at once.  But it doesn’t work. When the newspaper dries, it crinkles up, and if your mulch isn’t thick enough, the paper will poke through.  Also, because of the crinkling, you may end up with spots not covered by paper, and the weeds will somehow magically find them.)

best free weed control

I spread 2-3 inches of mulch all over the newspaper, working in small sections across the back of the house.


This mulch was leftover from a truckload we got last year.  It had decomposed quite a lot, and there wasn’t enough left to cover the area I needed, so I went to Lowes to get more.  II have heard that dark mulch holds a lot of heat and can “scorch” plants and dry them out more quickly, but the dark brown was on sale, so that’s what I got. Remember, I’m thrifty.

best weed barrier

By evening, our recycle bin of newspapers was empty and we had this on the north side of the house!
The newspaper will break down over a season or two, adding organic material to the soil.  But combining this technique with a weed preventer like Preen will help keep the weeds down without a tangled mess of plastic or fabric.

dark mulch

Next up, dealing with the grass that was disturbed when the electric line was buried!

boothbay blue

Related Posts:
Our Exterior Renovation
8 Tips to Keep Container Gardens Alive and Thriving
Spring on the Porch

Shared at: Motivational Monday