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It's more than money...

My mind is on the farmers in New Mexico this morning, dealing with the aftermath of Winter Storm Goliath.

One article I read estimated that 5% of the dairy cows in New Mexico were killed by the storm. Five percent doesn’t sound like a lot. But there were around 150 farms affected.
Many of those farms were forced to dump their milk when trucks were unable to reach them. Dairy farms do not have long-term milk storage – they depend on a regular schedule to transport their milk from the farm. Two days of milk, literally down the drain.

The media coverage in events like this usually focuses on the financial fall-out. How much were the cows worth? How much production was lost because of the storm? How much was the dumped milk worth?

The Stauffer Family, dairy farmers in Washington.
But for the farmers, the impact is so, so much more than financial. That fact became very apparent to us when we were living in daily fear of bird flu last spring. The financial aspect is scary – no doubt about that. Farming is a risky business and there’s a huge capital investment that makes today’s farms run. With tight profit margins, one disaster can be enough to ruin a farm that’s been in the family for generations.

How a Turkey Farmer Roasts a Turkey

roast a turkey from frozen

I know – the title makes it sound like I’m an expert. I should be, since I am a turkey farmer (or at least I’m married to one.)

Interested in learning more about our turkey farm? Click here.

The truth is, I cook a lot of turkey. But I don’t roast one very often. In fact, I’ve roasted a turkey exactly once in my life.

But here’s the deal. It’s so easy, I promise I’ll be doing it again. 

Back to School Realities

Back to school time is so exciting! After a summer of lazy, routine-less days, extra dishes and extra messes from the little bodies at home all day, it’s time for a fresh start!

You’ve all heard the back-to school tips…Start bedtime 10 minutes earlier every night for 2 weeks to ease your kids into the new schedule! Try cute little bento boxes to pack their lunch – pack them all up on Sunday night so they’re ready for the week! Create an adorable little homework station because that will magically make your kids WANT to do more schoolwork when they get home!

I was going to write a post like that. But here’s the deal: no matter what you do to prepare, back-to-school will probably offer you a few minor challenges…


First of all, you can try to ease into the new sleep schedule for weeks, but your precious children will still be exhausted and grumpy for at least 2 weeks. Expect plenty of random sleep-deprivation fueled tantrums until the zombie-monsters get so tired that they forget that the sun stays up two hours past bedtime and finally crash and burn.

Second, you know that handy bus schedule you get? It’s wrong. The bus will not be there at 7:13. One day it will arrive at 7:09 and then next it will come at 7:17. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And that gigantic list of school supplies? With “Ticonderoga” pencils? (Because of course, no other #2 pencils will do. MUST BE TICONDEROGA.) Good luck getting everything on the list in one trip. And good luck keeping track of your preschooler while you try. (Someone should invent a school supply delivery service: type in your school & grade level and they magically send you a box with everything you need. And wine. Wine would also be included. Seems much more relaxing this way.)

Finally, let’s talk about back-to-school clothes. No matter what you buy, your children will either a) grow out of them before they get a chance to wear them more than twice or b) suddenly refuse to wear what they picked out three weeks prior. And either way, you’re screwed.

With that, I wish you all a happy September! Let’s all hope we’ll get a few weeks of sanity in October, before the candy and parties that accompany monthly holidays start up. Heaven help us.


How to Strip Painted Wood

how to strip painted wood


In my last post, I confessed that I am a Jane Austen fan girl.

Well, today, I’m confessing that I’m also a Miss Mustard Seed fangirl.

Specifically, I love her signature two toned furniture look – painted base with a stained top. It makes my heart sing.

The stained wood adds some masculinity to antique pieces that may otherwise look quite feminine when painted. And since I live in a house of men, well…






I painted the base and refinished the top of this two-toned table for my antique booth, and it was so beautiful in real life.

stained and painted table

And the infamous bookshelf dresser also had a stained top and painted base.

Ikea spice racks on dresser


But if the top is already painted, stripping it can be a pain in the patootie. So I generally try to avoid it.

I have, over time, however, tried stripping a few painted pieces. And through trial and error, I’ve learned a few lessons that make the process go a bit more smoothly. So when I decided to take this old nightstand…

2015-04-18 13_08_24 and redo it with a stained top and painted base on this old nightstand…

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I took a few pictures of the process.

Tips for Stripping Painted Wood

Use the right supplies. I like to have the following on hand when stripping wood:

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When all of your materials are ready, apply a thick layer of the stripping gel to the surface you want to strip. Do NOT use a foam brush. It WILL disintegrate because of the stripping gel.

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Cover the surface with plastic wrap. The stripping gel only works while it’s wet. The plastic wrap keeps it wet longer, allowing it to break up multiple layers of paint. Doing it this way will seriously cut down on the amount of stripping gel and time needed to get the paint off.

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After a few minutes, you can wad up the plastic wrap and use it as a rag to wipe off the paint!

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At this point, break out the scraper. Wrapping the end with the old sock, scrape the remaining paint, moving in the same direction as the grain.

Repeat the process if needed, using the toothbrush to get into smaller areas. Try using the water bottle to spray stubborn spots and scrub the paint.

When all the paint is gone, wash the stripping gel residue off the piece, and stain to finish!

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Here’s the full before and after (feel free to pin it so you can find this tutorial again when you need it!)

two-toned nightstands

Hosting a Garage Sale: Tips & Tricks


I have to admit, I LOVE garage sales, but usually I’m the buyer, not the seller.  In May, I reversed roles and actually had two garage sales of my own. I made over $1000 between the two sales, and got rid of multiple truckloads of furniture and “junk.” And of course, I learned a few lessons along the way.

garage sale tips


Have a Garage Sale: 9 Tips & Tricks

1. Make AWESOME signs. And display them all over the neighborhood.

2. Hold your garage sale on Friday & Saturday.  Friday afternoons are prime time for garage sales!

3. Location, location, location. The first garage sale was at my friend’s house in a really nice neighborhood in a larger town. And we had SO MANY SHOPPERS who were willing to pay a little bit more.  The second garage sale was at my sister’s in a smaller town, and not only were there fewer shoppers, but they were thriftier, too.

4. Price things to sell (LOW!) Ask yourself what will make you feel better? Making a TON of money? Or getting rid of a TON of stuff?  Both? Then price low! You’ll get rid of more and still make a amount of money!

5. Have lots of change on hand. Especially dollar bills. And if you have a lot of items that are a quarter, have quarters, too! I don’t think we used any dimes, nickels or pennies, though.

6. Use a notebook to keep track of sales. When you’re doing a sale with others (which I definitely recommend) you need to keep track of who sold what. We made columns in a notebook for each of us and just wrote down the amounts for each transaction.

7. Price everything or nothing. I suggest pricing everything, but I hate pricing things, so I usually end up with some priced and some not. An article I read suggested not pricing anything. That is very rare in our area, so maybe it is a regional thing. But I know that if you price some things and not others, you’re way more likely to sell the things that are marked! People just don’t (or won’t) ask for prices on things that aren’t marked.  I think they believe that the unmarked goods just aren’t worth the effort (or price!) if they have to ask.

8. Advertise on Craigslist and your local Facebook swap groups. We posted some pictures on Facebook swap a few days before and made it very clear that we would not have any presales or sales through swap. We did not post prices or the address. The day of the sale, we updated the post with the address.

9. Have your garage sale early in the season. People are more excited for garage sales in the spring after a long, cold winter.

Both of my garage sales were held BEFORE I started my #konmari process, so I may end up having another one before the snow flies!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Blogger Book Club)

Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up #konmari

This month, we did Blogger Book Club a little differently. Instead of reading the SAME book, we all read a different self-help book. Because of my transition back to a full-time job, I chose The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo (aka #konmari) with hopes that it would help me get organized before my new job began. And I’m happy to say that it worked.

I began reading the book a few weeks ago, and as soon as I read the chapter on clothing, I started in. At first, I counted the items I discarded, but after getting rid of more than 200 articles of clothing (all mine! And not including socks or accessories) I lost count. But it doesn’t matter, because my bedroom and closet are the visual proof of my “tidying-up” and they bring me more joy than ever before.

After tidying up my clothes and the boys’ clothes (3 garbage bags of hand-me-downs to Bart’s cousin!) I moved on to the books. Again, I was able to discard hundreds of items, and the boys helped me with the children’s books. Many of the kids’ books I owned were from my classroom and meant for kids much older than my own. I always thought it was good idea to save them in case the boys liked them when they were older. But now I realize that being able to easily locate favorite books brings the boys and I much more joy. (We donated the books we discarded to some of my teacher friends.)

Next comes “papers” – I’m still working on that. #konmari is a process, one that may take months. But as the momentum builds, so does the joy.

Marie Kondo’s positive attitude towards “tidying up” makes a huge difference in the process. By focusing on joy and thanksgiving, “tidying up” becomes something to look forward to. That’s important if you’re starting with a house as full of clutter as mine is. Kondo says, “I believe that tidying is a celebration.” I’m definitely celebrating the success I’ve had so far!

I will admit, however, that some of Kondo’s suggestions seem a little wacky.  For example, I don’t believe that my belongings or house will actually respond to my declarations of gratitude, but I do believe that my attitude may change because of them. I feel less guilt when I acknowledge an item’s purpose before discarding it, and thanking my house for providing me with shelter helps me keep things in perspective.

Kondo suggests “tidying-up” by category, starting with clothing because it’s the easiest and leaving mementos for last, until you’ve really honed your “tidying-up” skills.  One part of my clutter issue is toys, and the #konmari method doesn’t really address the issue. So I am waiting to tackle them. I want to work on my own clutter first, and model tidying-up for my boys before I ask them to help me tidy-up their toys.

If you are a messy mom like me, struggle to keep the house clean or keep up on basic chores, or just feel overwhelmed by stuff, this book may be just what you need. I’ve read other books about getting rid of excess, and this is the first that has really made a difference in my life. It has changed my house and changed my attitude – truly life-changing magic! (I do suggest you actually read the book, though. There are some great videos and explanations of #konmari, but I don’t think you will really “get it” unless you read the whole thing.)

I plan to do more blog posts about my #konmari progress, so stay tuned!

Now, be sure to check out the other Blogger Book Club book reviews. Remember, we all read different self-help books in June!

Cassie @ Primitive and Proper
Kirby @ KirbAppeal
Jessica @ Gourley Girl and Guy

And for July’s book: First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett. The author is Kirby’s neighbor, and I am SO EXCITED to read this!

Do you use RoundUp in your garden? (And a Garden Tour)

A few weeks ago. I shared my free, green weed barrier, and I mentioned that I used RoundUp in my garden.

One of my readers emailed, concerned about the safety of RoundUp . She said, “Please find any alternative to weed control besides using RoundUp .  You have young boys and, frankly, even your husband or you should not be spraying this deadly product.”

roundup garden
I am emailing her back personally, but I want to clear some things up here, too. But let me preface it by saying that I’m generally not scared of “chemicals.” And as a farmer, I actually have a high amount of a trust in the industry and the chemicals that are widely used by farmers.

Of course, I know that other people have a different level of comfort with “chemicals.” (I put chemicals in parentheses because everything contains chemicals…water is a chemical, oxygen is a chemical…but most people think of chemicals as something artificial and scary.) And that’s okay. We all have different things that worry us. One of my friends only wears closed-toed shoes in grass because she’s afraid of spiders and snakes. One of my friends won’t let her children near large dogs. We all have our own things.

Personally, RoundUp is not something I worry about. I use RoundUp (glyphosate) in my flower garden, around the sidewalk, and in the driveway.

There are a few reasons I feel this way (and have a low level of fear associated with other “chemicals” as well.)

Why I Feel Okay Using RoundUp in My Garden:

Is roundup poison?1) The dose makes the poison. Most “chemical” exposure happens at very low levels.  And, compared to other “chemicals,” glyphosate (RoundUp ) is only “slightly toxic.” (Caffeine, on the other hand, and copper sulfate, an organic compound used in organic production as a fungicide, are “very toxic.”) Click on the graphic for a more in depth explanation of toxicity & RoundUp .

2) Pesticides are fatal for pests, not humans. We are not the same as bugs. We are not the same as plants. Glyphosate targets a specific enzyme found in plants that does not exist in humans or animals. (The ratings used in the graphic are for toxicity in rats.)

3) “Chemicals” including glyphosate (RoundUp ) are subject to a LOT of research and strict standards for safety.

Here is a blog post from my friend Jennie, a registered dietician and farmer in Maryland, about the organic and synthethic pesticides she uses on her crops.

Ultimately, everyone will have a different comfort level with different risks and everyone can choose whether or not to use RoundUp in their gardens. If you’re not comfortable using it, then there are many other ways to get rid of weeds.

If you’re on the fence, I hope this blog post gives you a little more information and insight into why I feel totally comfortable using RoundUp (glyphosate.)

June Garden Tour

Now, let’s get to the fun stuff!

I decided to take some pictures of my flower gardens as they are right now. They’re not perfect, and there are weeds. But it’s fun to see the gardens change over time, so I plan to do semi-regular “tours” of our landscape for you to see!

June Garden Tour
Iowa farm house gardens

On the southwest corner of our house, we have a small retaining wall. In front of the wall you can see (from left to right) a red twigged dogwood, evergreen vinca, a pretty hosta and coral bells (I think these are the “Hollywood” variety.)

On top of the wall, three more hostas, hydrangeas, and a juniper.

red twigged dogwood, vinca, hosta, coral bells, hydrangeas, juniper

Another view of the upper section in front of the bay window. This part of the garden is slightly more formal than the rest. The back row is made up of hydrangeas, then there are some new (little) barberry bushes, daylilies, and catmint.

hydrangea, daylilies, catmint
Speaking of catmint, it’s one of my favorite perennials. Drought tolerant, easy to divide, and keeps the deer away! What more could you want?
This catmint is part of a small bed on the southwest corner of the yard.
Victorian farmhouse garden
Last year, I had a small container herb garden over here, and I think that fluffy thing is a volunteer herb.  Anyone know what it is?
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View of the house from the west side…

Boothbay blue house

The north side…some pretty hostas, a hydrangea, a ninebark bush and a red twigged dogwood, then more hostas.

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And the northwest corner:

Mini iris, two pulmonaria (there were supposed to be three, but one didn’t come back,) a couple of daylilies, and an arborvitae. And a vintage concrete turkey. Why not?

2015-06-16 16.35.09

I hope you enjoyed the garden tour.  If you’d like to chime in about RoundUp , please follow the rules: Use Nice Words.

Related Posts:
potted plants tips[3]

weed barrier[2]

Our Exterior Makeover

before and after porch and bay window

Girl’s Night Out at West End Salvage


Why not combine good friends, great coffee, and some good old fashioned junk?


You might remember that last March, a few Iowa bloggers met at the West End Architectural Salvage coffee shop and I shared a LOT of pictures from the shop that day.

Well, I’m part of a small group of ladies that has a monthly “Girl’s Night Out.” And when we were brainstorming ideas for our May GNO, I suggested West End Salvage.  So, instead of a GNO, it was a SAO (Sunday Afternoon Out) but West End Architectural Salvage (featured on the HGTV show of the same name) was a great place to catch up with friends and get a little upcycling inspiration.

Speaking of upcycling inspiration – check out this piano bar.

west end salvage piano barwest end salvage piano bar

Does it remind you of anything? I wonder where the fellas at West End Salvage got their inspiration for this project.  I’m pretty sure I mentioned my repurposed piano (below) to them when I was there in March 2014.

repurposed upright piano - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

They say imitation is the best form of flattery. But let’s face it…I’m way more likely to imitate them than vice versa.

And I’m pretty sure I could imitate this coffee table pretty easily, don’t you think?

barn wood coffee table at West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

But some of the other pieces…well, those would be worth buying in the store.

Check out these three pieces – metal frames with antique crates as drawers, lined up to make one long sideboard.  Yes, please.

West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

And this ceiling tin, made into mirror frames and architectural wall art? I’ll take some of that, too.

Ceiling Tin at West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

There is just so much to see, and I love all the texture. This photo shows off a pretty neutral color scheme, but the textures and patinas add so much interest.

West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

And of course I love the old signs. The “sweaters” one is cute…

West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

But this one seems super appropriate, given the bird flu situation.

Biosecurity Sign at West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

Before we left, we asked an employee if we could check out the “shop.” Since it was Sunday, the guys weren’t there. So we giggled like school girls while we looked around at some of their raw materials and tools.

West End Salvage Workshop - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

More giggles…pretty sure this was a joke. Menards has NOTHING like West End Salvage.

West End Salvage Workshop - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

And more giggles…

West End Salvage Workshop - On the Banks of Squaw Creek


If you’re a West End Salvage fan (or love to go picking!) check out more pictures of the shop here.