Happy 2014!

Last year, I made some homestead resolutions.

The resolutions were…

-move from our suburban home to acreage in the country
-Make cheese
-Make kefir
-Make soap
-Make candles
-Dehydrate beef jerky
-Can all of our fruits and veggies for the year with in season produce either grown in our garden or bought locally in bulk
-Landscape with edible plants.
-Process rabbits.
-Plant fruit and nut trees
-Buy meat in bulk from a local farmer
-Cancel cable

I managed to get most of them done. I still haven’t made cheese and there was no way I could have canned all of our fruits and veggies for the year. Other than those two items though – I finished everything else on my list. 2013 was a big year.

-We sold our house and moved from our .17 acre suburban lot to 71 acres in the country
-Made water kefir
-Made homemade lye soap
-found an easy and cheap laundry soap recipe (post about that coming soon – it only costs $0.15 per gallon.)
-Made candles
-we landscaped our old house with Kale, Swiss chard, and roses before we moved.
-Dehydrated beef jerky and multiple other items with my dehydrator
-Planted 14 fruit trees in our orchard and bought a 15th tree that lives inside when the weather is cold.
-Cancelled cable (we haven’t had cable since August – no one misses it!)
-Started learning how to sew on a sewing machine
-set up water, electric, septic, and a house on our property
-met and became friends with some of our neighbors
-got chickens and built a chicken coop (The girls laid 14 eggs for us today!)
-butchered a goat and stocked the freezer with fresh meat
-canned meat with my pressure canner
-set up our water catchment system
-built a driveway so our vehicles don’t get stuck in the mud when it rains
-acquired our barn cats
-butchered and skinned rabbits
-quadrupled the size of our worm barn
-stopped using shampoo (I’ve actually been “No Poo” since October of 2012.)

For 2014, we have some big plans. I’d like to…

– Keep up with my garden. It’s 5 times bigger than the last one, and I’m worried it might be a lot to handle.
– Order our bees and beekeeper supplies
– Plant more fruit and nut trees
– Plant a perennial garden with berries and grapes
– Plant an herb garden
– landscape with edibles
– Finally make cheese
– Make all of our soap and laundry detergent for the year (I’ll still buy dish soap and dishwasher detergent.)
– Can more fruits, veggies, and meats
– Dehydrate more fruits, veggies, and meats
– Get to the point where I only grocery shop once a month. Right now, I go weekly. I’m going to try to stretch that to every two weeks to start.)
– File the right paperwork to officially make us a farm
– Sell some extra produce and eggs
– Keep good records
– Buy a tractor
– build a shop
– build a storm shelter
– build a front porch
– get a dairy animal
– raise meat chickens
– hay our own property 2 times during the summer if the weather cooperates

That’s a pretty big list. I’m not sure we will be able to buy a tractor, a shop, a storm shelter, and a front porch – – but I’m going to leave all of them on there. The tractor needs to come first, since the tractor will allow us to bale our own hay, which will make us some money over the summer and might pay for some of the other items. We’ll see.

There is a lot to do, and there is a lot to learn. I’m having so much fun though. I cannot wait to see what 2014 brings. Do you have any homesteading goals for 2014?

The good is very, very good.

In my post yesterday, I was venting about all of the negative things I’m learning about country life. There are quite a few positive things as well. Before I start on my list of positive things here’s another gratuitous shot of Rocky, our Great Pyrenees/Australian Shepherd mix. He is currently 8 weeks old. He weighs just 5.5lbs right now, but he is going to get big very quickly.

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Now that I’ve got the puppy picture out of my system. Here are some of the things I love about living in the boonies:

1) Lack of traffic. It takes me less time to drive to the kids school now (8 miles away) than it did in suburbia (2.1 miles away). The small town that I live close to has a population of under 1500. There is one blinking yellow traffic light. On most mornings, I can drive for 15 minutes in any direction before I see more than 2-3 other cars. There is no wait to pick the kids up from school and there is no line to drop them off in the mornings.

2) Lack of Neighbors. I have more cattle in a 1 mile radius of my house than I do people. The few neighbors that I do have are wonderful. Even if we don’t always agree on things, I know that I could depend on any of them in a crunch. I also know that I don’t have to worry about some rogue kid blaring music out of his car stereo in the middle of the night.

3) No Telemarketers. Yea. That’s all I need to say about that.

4) No advertising. I don’t have to look at billboards or commercials or store fronts. Nothing is telling me that I need newer or bigger or better. Most people here are frugal by nature. One of the gentlemen that lives a few streets away lives in a beat up singlewide, drives a jalopy, wears tie-dye t-shirts that have been worn so thin you can see through them, and looks like he could be a pan handler. Yet, he has a few thousand acres of land and a few thousand cattle to go with it. His net worth is easily an 8 figure number, but he still gets up at dawn, works his land, eats beans and rice for dinner, and finds joy in his daily walk with his dog. He splurges by buying a cold beer at the gas station every Friday night. He is just one example. Money doesn’t mean the same thing here that it means in other places. Security and hard work are more important. It’s refreshing. We never tried to keep up with the Jones’, and we’ve always been pretty frugal, but it’s nice to not be inundated with people saying that we need to buy more. I wish more people were able to experience this.

5) The City Paper. I love our paper. It comes out once a week and I look forward to it each week. It includes a list of birthdays and anniversaries, a little local gossip, some things to do in the area for the week, a few recipes, notes from one person to another, and a small classified section. It’s fun to open it and see that the headline is – BETTY LOU TURNS 90! HER GRANSON, JOHNNY, CAME TO VISIT HER. How fantastic is that?

6) The views. Oh, the views. My 4 year old comes in my room every morning, opens my east facing bedroom blinds, crawls into bed with me and says, “Mommy, let’s watch the sunrise.”  There are so many stars in the sky at night. I can teach my kids how to find the big and small dippers. I can also point out the Milky Way. I get to sit outside with a cup of hot tea and watch the sunset any night I want. I don’t have to worry about something blocking my views. Here is my view of the sunset.

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7) Fresh Air and Hard Work. I know that hard work seems like a strange thing to put on the list of positive things about living in the country; but, it’s extremely satisfying to do work outside, with your own hands, in the sunshine and fresh air. No matter how tired and sore I get, when I look out at the work we’ve gotten done and when I see the changes that are happening here because of that work – I feel a deep sense of satisfaction that no 9-5 job in the world could duplicate. Here is a picture of the driveway, before it was a driveway. If you spent a week shoveling all of this raking it into your own driveway, wouldn’t you feel a sense of accomplishment when you finished?

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8) Fishing whenever we want without having to get a fishing license. One of our three ponds is stacked with large mouth bass, bluegill, and some sort of strange hybrid. We call this pond ‘Lost Hook Pond.’ Here’s a picture of DH holding the strange large mouth bass/bluegill (pan fish) hybrid.

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9) Simple Entertainment. We don’t have cable and our internet is crappy, so we improvise. We play all kinds of card games, we shoot arrows, we target practice with the BB gun, we fly kites, we play horseshoes, we read books, we have time to cultivate individual hobbies and interests. We take nature walks. We work hard, but we spend a lot of time playing too.

10) The people. Most everyone is friendly and polite. Cars will stop completely for pedestrians. I can go to the store and not feel like I’m wading through a crowd of zombies, since people will actually acknowledge our presence. Most of the people around here would rather barter for things or give things away than sell and buy things. We’ve had complete strangers stop to offer to help us do things. When we pass by other cars in this area, everyone waves and smiles. There is a pride that comes with knowing we are a part of this great community.

11) We can do whatever we want to this property. We could build a shopping mall or a trailer park or the town’s first jello wrestling arena for dogs. We could build a house out of glass marbles. We don’t need permits for anything. We don’t need permission for anything. We have all mineral rights and no one can be on this property unless we give them permission. Also, we are grandfathered into these rights, so no one will ever be able to tell us what we can and cannot do here. (Obviously – we have to pay appropriate taxes and obey state and county laws.)

12) Watching the kids thrive. They love this place as much as DH and I do. When they work beside us on farm projects, they are learning real life lessons that they could never learn at school. Here is an ‘in progress’ picture of the dog house they built out of pallets for Rocky. DH helped them a little, but they did most of the work on their own. (Rocky loves it. In the picture of him at the top of this post, he is hanging out inside of it.)

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13) Security. This is the land of opportunity for us. If DH lost his job, we could fall back on full time farming. It would be hard, but we could do it. If we were ever hungry, we could go fishing in our own ponds and catch our own supper. We could harvest veggies from our garden and fruit from our orchard. We could even use our camping filter and make pond water safe for us to drink. We could chop down trees and build a temporary shelter. We could get enough firewood to get us through the cold parts of winter. This land takes care of us and in turn, I want to take good care of it.

So you see – there are plenty more good things than bad things about living in the country. I’m sure my perceptions about things will change as we become more familiar with the area and the people. It’s very different, but it’s a very good different (most of the time).  Despite the hardships and frustrations – the benefits of living here far outweigh any negatives.

Five weeks

We’ve been here five weeks and there are some things that are beginning to bug me. I knew there would be trials that would come up from such a drastic lifestyle change; but I wasn’t prepared to go through such a massive amount of culture shock.

1) Internet sucks here. Really. We get 10G a month. That’s it. For downloading, uploading, watching movies, and anything else we regularly do online. That’s it. We don’t have cable, so we usually watch Netflix streaming to catch up on our favorite shows and watch movies. We can watch about 1.5 movies a week and hit our data cap.

2) There is no trash pick up. Well, scratch that – there is trash pick up. It costs $8 a week and they will pick up to 8 bags of trash. That’s $1 for each bag of trash. Crazy, right?  Luckily, DH can throw our trash in the dumpsters at his work. It is forcing me to pay attention to how much trash we accumulate.

3) Mice. Mice are a problem I (wrongly) assumed was due to poor household management. I learned my lesson when I woke up to a mice infestation (i.e. two mice) a few days ago. They are fast little buggers. I don’t run around screaming whenever I see one, but I do try to avoid whatever room I know one is in. We have some traps set up, so I hope they work. I’ve also heard of a few deterrents I can try (peppermint oil and dryer sheets), so I’m going to try that as soon as I get to the store.

4) Snakes. I guess the mice would be more of an issue without them, but the snakes we have here are poisonous and nasty. Someone ran over a copperhead a few feet from our property line last weekend. We keep the grass mowed around the house and barn; but we need to make sure we are always vigilant when we are outside.

5)Stray dogs. There is a pack of three stray dogs that roam the neighborhood (our surrounding streets . They haven’t shown any aggression towards us; but, one of them was in our barn pesting my rabbits today. Grrrr. The city will not do anything about it – all they say is that if there are animals or people on my property without my permission that are threatening to me or to my livestock, I can shoot legally shoot them. Crazy, eh? It’s a completely different way of thinking.

6) Lack of city services. We have really slow internet with a data cap. I have more books on my personal bookshelves than the library has available for me to check out. The local police does not police my area, we have to call the county sheriff for any issues. The fire department is all volunteer and it would take them 30 minutes to get here. No one picks up dead animals out of the street (except the vultures). The closest hospital is 20 minutes away. My oldest twin cut himself with a pocket knife and needed stitches at the end of August. Luckily, I had a great first aid kit available and I was able to temporarily doctor him up until I could get him to the ER. It could take up to an hour for an ambulance to get here.

7)Roads. Our property sits about a mile and a half down a dirt road. When it rains, the road turns into a slick pit of mud. Luckily, there is a black topped road that leaves our property from the other direction. It’s a little out of the way to take the black top road, but it’s safe to drive in wet weather conditions. It’s a pain to have to explain that to people coming to visit though. Luckily, UPS knows the route and always calls me in advance to see if the road is clear.

8)Everyone knows your business. We went to church with my neighbors in a large town about 20 minutes away. After service, the pastor stopped me and said, “You must be the twin’s mom! My wife teaches at their school. She doesn’t have them in any of her classes, but she told me that they are such great kids. How do you like living in —-Insert Name that Locals Call the Area We Live In—–?” It’s hard to get used to everyone knowing your business, when you aren’t even sure of anyone’s name yet.

9)Animals in the middle of the road. Usually these animals are dead, but sometimes they are alive. You know you live in a small town, when you give directions to someone and you say, “pass that area of main where the three chickens hang out in the road, swing a right by the crazy roadrunner and it’s behind the parking lot with the orange tabby.” (And people know exactly where you are talking about.)

10) Paranoia. I know this is just a part of getting over culture shock. But, it’s pretty abnormal for people to drive by our property. I think we get about 2 cars a day that drive by, and most of them turn around before they hit the mud road and go back in the other directions (the big kids are vastly entertained by people turning around when they see the “pavement ends” sign). I’ve gotten to the point where whenever I hear a car, I have to check to make sure it’s not a mass murderer driving to my property. Isn’t that a little crazy? When we lived in the suburbs, I felt like I was suffocating by the sheer amount of people that were around us at any given time. Now, I’ve got 2 neighbors within a half mile of me, and I can’t see either of their houses. I feel so much more relaxed, knowing that we have so much space around us. But, I also feel like I lost a little bit of a safety net. We aren’t completely on our own here, we have great neighbors that I know I could count on. It just feels like we are alone. Sometimes the sense of quiet is overwhelming.

11) Dirt. Sand. Mud. Muck. Poop. Guts, Blood. Dust. Hay. Grass. Everything else that comes into my house on boots, shoes, sandals, socks, backpacks, hair, and clothes. I could sweep and vacuum all day long and still never get it all. I’m not an obsessive neat freak; but I still like to have things tidy. It’s very hard to keep things clean here. Especially carpet.

12) Money. Our homestead is proving to be expensive to set up. We have had two flat tires in the last five weeks. We spend almost twice as much on gas as we used to. Our tap water is so salty tasting that we buy in drinking water. We have a huge property that has fencing that needs to be maintained. We had to truck in gravel to build our driveway. We have a lot of projects that will save us money in the long run that cost money upfront to get started. We are taking our time and waiting to buy things until we get great deals; but it’s still much more expensive than I was expecting.

I know that we are doing the right thing for our family; and I know that I am happy here and I don’t ever want to move away from this place. This is home. I just wish I would have been a little more prepared for some of the things we have encountered. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because I’m not. I signed up for this craziness and I wouldn’t change it for anything. But, I also don’t want to sugar coat anything. It’s going to be a hard adjustment period for me.

Luckily, despite all of the annoyances, I’ve found something that makes it all worth it. I’ve found a deep sense of contentment and peace. Life is good.

 

P.S. The puppy’s name is Rocky.

We are home

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Have I mentioned that I love this place? There is so much to catch up on, that I’m not sure where to begin. I guess I’ll do a quick recap of the last few weeks, then I can go into more detail later.

We have wonderful neighbors. They came over and tilled our garden for us! The garden is much bigger than our last garden. If I had to guess, I would say it is about 1500 – 2000 square feet. The barn in the picture is 3000 square feet, so that should give you an idea of how big the garden area is. We put the garden next to the barn, so we could have easy access to water, once we set up our water catchment system. If you look at the left hand side of the barn, you can see that we started implementing our water catchment, we just need to find a water barrel or tote that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (at the feed store, they are $180 for 275 gallons, yikes!).

I planted a ton of things, lots of herbs, spinach, kale, swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, onions, strawberries, collard greens, and everything else I had seeds for. I used all of the Spring/Fall seeds that I had. Every single one of them. And I still have 1 row that’s completely empty. How do you like the flour I used to mark my rows?  I couldn’t find the string and nails I usually use, so I had to improvise. I think it worked out rather well.

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The neighbors are older than my parents, and it’s hard for them to plant their garden, so after they tilled our garden with their tractor, I offered our knees and backs and volunteered to plant all of their seeds in their fall garden. It took the kids and I about 2.5 hours to plant their seeds. It was SO worth it. We were treated with homemade ice cream and stories about what this place looked like before we moved in. It’s nice to feel like our neighbors are also going to be great friends. It’s also nice to know that we have other people living out here that are looking out for us and rooting for us.

We planted six fruit trees. Two red delicious apple, two yellow delicious apple, and two Bartlett pears. The red and yellow delicious will pollinate each other. We had to buy two 150′ water hoses in order to keep them watered. We spent about two days trying to tote water to them before we decided that the hoses would be a good investment. Right now, there is a trash bag with holes poked at the bottom, filled with water and attached to each tree. The 4 year old and I spend about 15 minutes each morning filling up the trash bags with water and they slow release all day long. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but the trees are all 25′ apart from each other. Eventually, I’d like an entire fruit tree orchard. I’ll be very happy if we can plant another 6 trees this fall, then 12 more in the spring. We’ll see how that goes. I’m sorry for the cruddy picture, I’ll get some better ones at some point.

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I found some free goats on Craigslist, and DH and the teens went to round them up and bring them home.  They are very skittish around people. One of them went into our freezer. The other three are starting to become friendlier. We now have a 2 year old nanny, and a 7 month old (unrelated) buckling and doeling. Yes, we are crazy and brought them home tied up in the bed of DH’s truck. Luckily, we didn’t have to drive very far with them like this.

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The main problem with free goats is that we were not prepared for them at all. We have a metal barn, and a cattle pen that is meant for loading and unloading cattle. We adapted what we had to what we needed by using things we found. We had 42 pallets and we used metal hangers to tie them around our cattle pen. It’s pretty ugly, but it works for now.

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Here are the goaties trying to figure out how to escape. Uh, I mean, enjoying their new home.

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This is the friendly one of the bunch. She is a sweetie.

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We got our barn cats last weekend, they have to spend two weeks in a holding cell before we can let them wander around. Their names are Marla and Monty and they were found wandering around Moore, OK after the tornado that devastated the town back in May. They seem to be very timid and fearful. I’m bribing them with cat treats and canned food. I hope they decide to stick around once they are released. I don’t have a picture of them yet, they keep hiding whenever they hear the click of my camera. Silly kitties. I’m getting another batch of water kefir and another batch of composting worms next week. We should also have a litter of rabbits next Wednesday. There is always more to do, we just have to pace ourselves so we don’t get overwhelmed. My farm chores take about 30 minutes a day right now, once the garden starts growing, it will increase by an hour or two each day. It’s manageable right now, but I could see how it could easily get out of control. It really is worth it though – we are home!

 

Home

We officially moved to our new property last Wednesday, August 28th. It’s going to take another week or two until we get internet set up, so I apologize for the lack of posts.

Even with all of the headaches and hassles, making the move from the city to the country has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

I will post a better update as soon as I can.

Money money money

I thought I would throw the numbers out for some of our expenses. They add up quickly, and if you are seriously thinking about making a move like this, these numbers might help. All areas and circumstances will be different, but these are the numbers from my specific experience. (So far.)

Water – $7000

We had water about 250 yards from our property line, on the opposite side of the road. It cost us $3000 for the water meter, $2000 to bore under the road, and another $1000 to get water to the corner of our property (These are rates charged by the 1 water company that services our area. Monopoly, much?) Once the water was at the corner of our property, we spent about $400 to rent a ditch witch and trailer for two days and another $600 on the line we used for the water as well as the connectors. This put water to the house and let us build a spigot outside the house. It took about 4 weeks from start to finish to get water set up. (The water company had some issues with a neighbor that didn’t want to let the water company dig on his property. It took a couple of weeks to get that issue resolved.)

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Ditch Witch

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Water Line

Electricity – $1000

We somehow got a $1500 credit for our electricity, I’m not sure if it is Federal, State, County, or Company specific. The total to get underground electricity to our house was $1300, so we did not have to pay anything out of pocket for that part. We did, however, have to pay $650 for a electric circuit ground thingy that connects from the wires the city put in to the wires we put in for the double wide. The wire is very expensive and cost us about $350 for a little over 100 feet (3 strands of 35 feet). Our total out of pocket cost was $1000.  It took us about 3 weeks to get the electricity set up.

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Electric Circuit Ground Thingy (Does anyone know what this is really called?). And – if you were wondering – We are going to put skirting on the house as soon as the septic is finished.

Septic $5830

Our aerobic septic system is costing us $5500 + permits. The permits cost a total of $330. In Texas, it is required that all aerobic on site septic facilities have a maintenance plan (i.e. septic insurance). This total includes 2 years of this maintenance plan. We still don’t have the septic set up, but we are 1 week into our wait and the individual that is doing it says we should have it up by early next week. That puts us at 1.5 weeks for our septic system to be set up.

Our total for electric, water, and septic – $13,830 – (This does not include money paid for the house and the land. This number would also be much higher if we had hired out the work we did by ourselves.)

We have some other big expenses that we need to deal with as well.

Every time we go to our property it costs us $20 in gas. I usually pack us a lunch, snack, and plenty of drinks, but we almost always stay out so long we end up stopping for food on the way home. This is a HORRIBLE habit, and as soon as we can be at the property full time, this expense will stop.

Right now, the road in front of our property is a white dusty rock. Every time someone drives by, a cloud of dust blows over everything. We called the city and for us to have the city pave it, it will cost about $5 a linear foot. Even if we only do the section on front of the house, that’s still going to cost us $2,000 – $3,000.

We are moving to a very safe area. We live between a retired policeman and a retired teacher. There is very little crime in this area. Despite that, someone stole thousands of dollars worth of DH’s tools from our barn last week. Ugh. We are dealing with the insurance company, but that’s going to be a long drawn out process, and we need to replace some of it fairly quickly so we can start doing work to the property.

We want to get a tractor at some point. It can wait awhile, but it would make things SO much easier. A good used tractor will cost about $6000.

We want to build a small (and secure!) shop/garage  for DH. Eventually, he would like to quit his job and work only from the property. This will enable us to be entirely self sufficient, since his income could pay for the things that we can’t produce on our own.  Total cost to get up and running – $6000.

On top of everything else, DH is quitting his job and switching to another job that is closer. In the long run, this will work out much better for us. His pay is comparable, but Instead of DH taking 3 hours to get to work and back each day, it will only take him 45 minutes. He will also have Sundays off! *Happy Dance!* He hasn’t had Sundays off in a really, really long time. The only real negative is that we will have to pay about $1500 – $2000 upfront to prepay for 4 months of short term medical insurance.

I know that a lot of these expenses are adding equity and value to our property, but it still adds up quickly. At least I know we saved enough to pay cash for all of the utilities and I know it will all be worth it in the long run. If the long run ever gets here…..

 

 

P.S. Eventually we want to be off grid – and we plan on building our own solar efficient, off grid home; but for now, we are in a time (and money) crunch. We are currently living with my parents and we want to be on the property full time before school starts (this Monday! Yikes!).

Slow and Steady…

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We are slowly but surely making progress on our property. DH had the last two weeks off, so we managed to get quite a bit done.

-We closed on the double wide and had it moved to the property. We decided to have the front of the house face the road, which is on the south side of the property. It’s halfway between the barn and the mud pit that we affectionately call Mosquito Pit Pond. I’m very happy with the house placement.

-We used a ditch witch to trench a line from the new (as of today!) water meter to the house. I keep calling it a trench wench, but apparently that’s the wrong term. We had to dig an 18 inch trench so the water line would be underneath the frost line.

-We got our part of the electricity done and now we are on the list to have electric set up within the next two weeks. Our electric company recommended a gentleman that would build and install the circuit thingy that we needed for just a hair over the cost of the raw materials.

-We’ve started the process for our septic and we are waiting for the permits to be pulled so we can get the septic in.

-We have also moved all of our furniture and boxes into the house so we can unpack them at our leisure when we are at the property.

-We bought blinds for the house and plan to install them all this week. I also found a bag full of really nice curtains at the resale shop yesterday. There is enough for almost every window in my house, and for less than the cost of 1 panel at the local big box store. Yay.

-We spent 9 out of the 10 days that DH had off at the property. Most of the time we were working, but I did get to spend a day watching the kids fish and fly kites while I sat on my tush and enjoyed the fresh air. Even though the temperature has been 105+F, there is always a great breeze that makes the scorching weather bearable.

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School starts in a couple of weeks and I really wanted to be on the property before that happened. I’m a little frustrated that it won’t work out that way, but I’m still hopeful that we will be able to move in full time before the end of August… I guess time will tell.