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My Know it All



Adam, 5 (and a half) years old

“Mom, part of the lake isn’t frozen anymore, and the water is brown underneath.  Water is brown unless it’s drinking water.  They make it blue on movies but it’s really mostly brown.  But there is water everywhere.  Like, I mean everywhere around us.  It’s, like, all over the earth.  Mostly in the oceans, but it’s also underground.  Mom, do you think there’s water under you right now?  There is.  But it’s way, way, way, way underground.  There’s also jewels underground.  If you dig really deep you’ll find hard rocks and jewels.  And the center of the earth.  It’s the hottest part of the earth, but it’s not as hot as the sun.  The sun is the hottest thing in the whole world.  Did you know that the planet furthest from the sun is the coldest?  And do you know that on the other side of the earth it’s dark right now?

I really know a lot, don’t I?  I think I pretty much know everything.”

Shelli’s Modern Cabin Living Room


We all have those things we have to decorate around.  Sometimes it’s an awkward layout or furniture we can’t afford to replace.  Sometimes it’s a giant tv that our husband insists on.

And sometimes it’s a collection of John Deere Collectible Plates. (I’ll write about that another day.)

But Shelli has to decorate around deer.  Formerly live, now dead-and-in-her-living-room, deer.

She’s not the only one.  I would guess, in our neck of the woods, 1 in 5 families have a deer mount on their wall.  And if they decided to decorate around a cabin or hunting theme, the room is probably covered in burgundy and hunter green.

Shelli’s living room is done in a pretty medium brown and gray, which blends well with the two deer (and two pheasants) on the wall.  But her dining room and kitchen are a vibrant green and yellow, which tells me that the living room just really isn’t her style.

She asked for help planning a living room re-do, and I have to admit, it was kind of a challenge.  The room has to be comfortable for her two little boys and husband, as well as herself.  And the deer and pheasants have to stay.


I came up with this design to address several problems in the room.

1.  The couch and loveseat have seen better days.  Shelli says it’s time for new furniture, and we both agreed that dark brown leather would be a great option for her busy boys.

2.  The room needs contrast.  The walls and furniture are nearly the same color.  My vote – lighter gray walls.

3.  The room needs pattern and texture.  I’m mad about plaid lately, so I’m suggesting a light yellow and gray plaid on pillows.  Other options include stripes and a subtle floral.  Not a frilly floral, but a meadow, prairie type, like on this (clearance!) chair from Target.

4.  Finally, a little femininity will go a long way.  Straight lines, dark leather, and taxidermy are all very masculine.  The softer colored patterns, as well as a round end table, will make the room comfortable for Shelli, too.


I think I chose the colors – wheat, gray and dark brown – because that’s what I’m seeing outside my window this time of year. 

Sources and more inspiration for the room can be found on the pinterest board I created for Shelli’s living room.

Labor & Delivery vs. Kidney Stone


They say that passing a kidney stone is like being in labor & delivery

I have done both. The latter, I did willingly, without medication.  The former was unplanned by me, unexpected, and unwelcome.


kidney stone


Kidney Stone: mine took 3 hours to pass

Labor and Delivery: both were about 9 hours

Winner: Kidney Stone


Pain level

Labor and Delivery: 10

Kidney stones: 72

Winner: Labor and Delivery



Labor and Delivery: None.  That’s right.  Med-free births for me!

Kidney Stones: None, but not by choice.  By the time they got the IV in my wretched, hard to find veins, the stone had passed.

Winner: tie


Fear Factor

Kidney Stones: had no clue what was going on.  Thought for sure I was going to die on the bathroom floor before I got to the ER

Labor and Delivery:Was pretty sure I was having a baby.  Nervous, but exhilarating.  (much scarier the 2nd time because I knew what having a baby was like!)

Winner: Labor and Delivery



Kidney Stone: Strainer to pee through for a week.

Labor and Delivery: Sweet, sweet baby.

Winner: Labor and Delivery



Kidney Stone: None (except I now know that I have another one floating around, waiting to pass)

Labor and Delivery: 9 months of preparation

Winner: Labor and Delivery



Kidney Stone: peeing through a strainer for a week

Labor and Delivery: trouble sitting for a week, let alone peeing

Winner: Kidney Stone



Kidney Stone = 2

Labor and Delivery = 4



Yes, it’s true.  I’d rather have another baby than pass another kidney stone.

Unfortunately, however, there is another kidney stone floating around inside of me. 

Not another baby.

Downton Abbey & Livestock Farming


“Farming needs a kind of toughness, doesn’t it?  There’s room for sentiment, but not sentimentality.”  Lady Edith Crawley, Downton Abbey Season 2, Episode 2

Soon after I confessed on Facebook that I’m only on Season 2 of Downton Abbey, I heard Lady Edith philosophizing on farming.

Now, Lady Edith is not my favorite character.  She can be outspoken to the point of being downright cruel.  But I admire her can-do attitude and the gumption with which she hopped on that tractor and got to work.

And when she uttered those words – “There’s room for sentiment, but not for sentimentality” my view of her quickly improved.

lady edith farming

I, of course, googled “sentiment” and “sentimentality” to make sure I understood the difference.

Sentiment is a feeling or emotion.

Sentimentality takes that further.  Sentimentality is excessive tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.


And I’m sure that Edith is right.

“Farming needs a kind of toughness.”  And I truly believe that toughness comes after working on a farm.  Some might say that farmers are born with it, and some probably are, but it can be acquired over time.  I am proof of that.

You see, a livestock farmer inevitably sees animals ill, injured or suffering from time to time.  And that stirs up sentiment.  Even experienced, veteran farmers hate seeing an animal suffer.  Then, when it is time, farmers willingly send their animals to be slaughtered.  That also brings about sentiment.

But not sentimentality.  As Edith said, there is no room for that. 

And I would take that further.  There is no reason for that. 

It’s not that farmers don’t care about their animals.  It’s the opposite.  Farmers care so much for their animals that they have no guilt when an animal dies.  Even if the farmer has to “euthanize” an animal themselves because of illness or injury, they know that they are doing what’s right.

But off the farm?  Those of us who don’t have first hand experience working on a farm are the ones who lean towards sentimentality in regards to livestock farming.  Remember, I was not a farm girl.  I’ve been on both sides of the fence.  And when we started farming, sentimentality got the best of me sometimes.  Seeing an injured or ill bird is hard, and although I’ve never had to put an animal down myself, the thought is quite unsettling.

That’s why so many anti-agriculture ads are so compelling.  They push viewers through sadness and guilt all the way to sentimentality.  They make us think that there is no middle ground…there is either sentimentality, or animal cruelty.  And because only 2% of Americans farm nowadays, most people don’t know any differently.


That’s why I keep writing about farming.  I know most of my readers probably don’t care (and if you’ve read all the way to this point, you deserve a cookie.)  But I care.  I care about farming, I care about our animals, and I care about whether or not you care!  I want you to know that there is sentiment in farming.  But there is no room reason for the sentimentality that Chipotle, Panera and HSUS want you to feel.

The only sentimentality I feel is because of how much consumers misunderstand modern farms.

Dining Room Problems (and Possible Solutions)

I’ve got issues.

Dining room issues.

The first issue is was the floor.  We have original hardwood floors.  And they were getting scratched by the chairs and dulled by foot traffic.

So, we put down a rug.  But we have two small children.  So instead of a scratched floor, we then had a disgustingly stained rug.

I finally found a solution to the floor problem, and I wrote about it today at Sawdust and Embryos (another Iowa farmhouse blog!)  Head on over to learn how to save your floors and add some style, even if you have small kids and a small budget.

Problem #2:
A couple of months ago, I showed you our dining room table, nice and shiny-clean.

dining room rug

But in reality, it usually looks like this:

messy dining room

The only reason it was so clean in the first picture (and the only reason we have room to eat on it!) is that I regularly move all the junk to the bookshelves in the background.

This is a problem.

The solution to this problem?  Less stuff.  (a never ending battle)  More storage. (another never ending battle.)

The bookshelves are vintage Drexel.  Well made, super heavy, and deep.  One has a drop-down desk.
drop down desk

Theoretically, they should make organization easy!  But I’ve looked online repeatedly, but haven’t been able to find baskets I liked that would make the most of the space.  Finally, in Target the other day, I found several options, but I need help narrowing down the options.

storage basket options

#1: $20.98 each, (Clearance), Threshhold Lidded Box

threshold storage box
I found two of these and I’m assuming these were an online order return, because I’ve never seen them in the store.  But I found them online, in more sizes, too!  I ADORE the pattern.  These are keepers for sure.

But the rest are negotiable.

storage bins

#2: $20.29 each, Threshold Global Large Milk Crate – Dark Brown

#3: $18.29 each, Threshold Paper Rope Large Crate – Dark Brown

#4: $24.99 each, Threshold Rattan Large Milk Crate Pecan

#5: $12.99 each, ITSO Large Fabric Storage Bin, Khaki

This says it’s on clearance for $5.98, but it’s not available online.  So what are the chances I’ll find more in the store?  Here’s a close up of the color/texture.  It is a pretty khaki that blends well with the rest of the room.

ITSO storage bin

I’m thinking I’ll go with the 2 big blue/gray boxes, and then 6 more that match each other.  (Two on each of the remaining 3 shelves.)  But which design?

AND, I’ve been planning to paint those bookshelves, so keep that in mind when recommending a storage basket.  But what color should I paint them?  White to match the kitchen cabinets and trim? Gray? Yellow? Dark teal? Gray blue? Red?

What do you think?

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Spontaneous Blogging


I’m mad at Facebook.  I like to share short updates and funny things my kids do on my facebook page, but Facebook has changed the way they do things (again) and so few people see it!

And I’m too much of a perfectionist with my writing here on the blog, which means that from the time I draft a blog post to the time it’s published could be anywhere from several days to several weeks.

I want you guys to know me.  I want you to know my personality, know what makes me tick, and know all my crazy thoughts.  But if Facebook isn’t going to make that happen anymore, then I need to start blogging more spontaneously and less “perfectly.”

So this is it.  My first spontaneous blog post.  On a Tuesday afternoon, on my couch, in my slippers, 20 minutes before my 5 year old gets off the bus.  No editing.  No pinterest-worthy picture, no earth-shattering topic.  Just a few quick thoughts.



And a random picture of a squirrelly little boy with a slightly asymmetrical face that I adore.

Icing on the Countryside

Last Saturday was a gorgeous, frosty morning.  It made up for the bitter cold we endured earlier in the week.


I don’t want to clutter this post up with words.  So just enjoy the view, as I did last week!


I believe in the full moon.

Most of the time, I believe science.

When I was teaching, I used research based practices to help my students learn.

In agriculture, I trust the scientific research that is out there.

And I love psychology, which studies humans behavior from a scientific perspective.


See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download <br /> the highest resolution version available.

But I also believe in the full moon.

I believe the full moon has the power to turn an innocent class of 4th graders into an army of little monsters.

I believe the full moon can transform two loving brothers into Civil War style enemies.

I believe the full moon makes reasonable, rational women become weepy, emotional little girls.


I believe, that for a few days every month, that big round, beautiful moon makes everyone bat-shit crazy.

First Home Dreams: Ashley’s 1906 Farmhouse

Hello there! I'm Ashley, and I write the not-very-frequently-updated blog First Home Dreams. Katie graciously asked if I would be interested in sharing my home with you, and I was happy to accept!

This spring, my husband and I moved into a brick Queen Anne style house that was built in 1906. It's been a major upgrade over our first house, which had all sorts of farmhouse charm, but was quite small and needed massive amounts of work. We're thankful that most of what needs to be done in this house is reasonable maintenance and cosmetic upgrades.

We're only the fourth family to live here, so "updates" have fortunately been minimal. So much of our home's original woodwork and hardware is intact. We admittedly haven't done very much since we moved in, but there's so much potential here and over time we definitely have plans make it our own. I hope you're prepared for a whole bunch of "before" photos because like I said...we haven't done much at all.

The Front Entrance

front entrymain staircase railing

main staircase details

Our last house didn't have a well defined front entrance - all of the exterior doors opened pretty much directly into living space. In this house, we have a mudroom/laundry room that exits to the garage, a door off of the kitchen onto the side porch, and this front entrance. As you can see, it's very, very pink. I'm in no hurry to tear down all that wallpaper, though, but more immediate plans involve painting the trim from cream to white and tearing the carpet off of the floor and stairs. Later on I'd like to tile the floor and hopefully use this entrance for guests so they don't have to see all of our junk in the garage.

The Kitchen


While honey oak cabinets aren't really my thing if I was designing a kitchen from scratch, the quality of these is outstanding and there is no way we will be painting them out. Eventually we'll change the hardware out to something a little less...shiny, and a long term dream of mine is to actually bring that crown molding up to the ceiling and install custom "filler" cabinets in the resulting space. A new counter top (some type of stone, ideally) and a back splash is also on the wish list. The very first thing we'll probably do though? Tear up that carpet to get at the original hardwood floors!

The Bathroom


As is typical of farm houses this age, our house was built without a bathroom. This room was originally the pantry. Sometime in the 50's it was turned into a bathroom, and then it was renovated into what it currently is in the 90's (that's my best guess, anyway). If I ever win the lottery, I'd like to completely gut this space and turn it into a more period appropriate bathroom complete with a hex tile floor and subway tile on the walls.

The Dining Room

reading room

This is my most favourite room in the entire house, what with the massive fireplace in the corner, the stained glass window, original exterior door, and wicked awesome tin ceiling. Because I love it so much as is, I'm in no hurry to redecorate. Sooner than later plans include swapping out the ceiling fan to an antique fixture and painting the walls to a darker, more rich blue. We have no need for a dining room all year round, so we won't be rushing out to purchase a dining table and chairs. If we ever do host big dinners here, we'll use folding tables and chairs that can be stored away when not in use. I'd much rather have the open space for the cat and dog to play, and maybe kids one day too.

The Living Room

para paints white cliffs of dover living room

When we moved in, this room was pink and had really horrible forest green and pink floral drapes hiding the bay window. The trim was also more tan than white. Although it's a bit better than what it was, it still has a long way to go. We'll be getting new furniture some time soonish, so I've stalled on moving forward any further until we actually get something.

The bedrooms upstairs are in no state to be shared, and honestly...they just look like bedrooms. So how about we talk about what's outside?

The Farm

Marl creek

Our house sits on a 110 acre farm. We own this property with my husband's parents - his dad and brother are cash crop farmers. Basically, they own the land, we own the house. The last family that lived here kept Percherons (and also had beef cattle at some point), so we have three great outbuildings. The drive shed is perfect for big farming equipment, the horse barn is great for extra storage of stuff that doesn't fit in the house or one-car garage, and the big old bank barn? Well, it's my favourite.

Ontario century barn

It's also in desperate need of restoration.

Century barn ontario

Old barnCentury barn Ontario

It's been too long since any livestock lived in it, and our cold Ontario winters have really taken their toll. My father in law has brought in a structural engineer, and plans are starting to form to restore this beauty, so that hopefully in the not so distant future, it can house livestock once again. Whether that's beef cattle, meat goats, or something else entirely is yet to be determined, but it's one of the prospects that excite me the most about our new home. I've been enamoured with farms for as long as I can remember, and I really didn't think living on one would ever be a possibility. As cheesy as it is to say, life can really surprise you sometimes.

And with that, I'm signing off. Thanks for having me, Katie!

2014: The Year of the Routines



I’m terrible at routines.  I don’t know why, but I always have been.

I’m also terrible at keeping my house clean.  And managing time.  And getting stuff DONE.

I’m really good at procrastinating and distracting myself.

But this year, it’s all going to change.  I’m going to put some new routines in place, and it’s going to be a good thing.

routines are good

I googled “routines” to find an image for this post, and was kind of surprised.  Everything I found was so very negative.  Apparently, the internet thinks that routines will squelch creativity and lead to a boring, mundane life.

routine images

I disagree.  Routines will free up more time for creativity, without the nagging “responsibilities” in the back of my mind.  Routines will help me tackle the mundane tasks of life as quickly and effortlessly as possible, so that I can give my full attention to the things that really matter: my family and my “projects.”

A routine is like a little plan for getting something done, whether it’s dishes, laundry, or getting the 2 year old to bed.  A routine eliminates the decision making and procrastinating.  A routine gets things done.

I’m starting small.  Routine #1: Do the dishes first thing in the morning.  I can almost get the dishwasher unloaded while the keurig heats.  And then it only takes a few more minutes to get it loaded back up again.  Dishes will no longer pile up for days.  Small routine.  Big difference.

What routines do you follow? Cleaning routines?  Work routines? Routines for your kids?  Please SHARE! I need all the help I can get!

New (Old) Bathroom Cabinet and a Bitter Cold Update

(I'm sure by now you're sick of hearing about the cold.  I am, too.  But just a little update - Yesterday's temp was -12*F in Des Moines.  And wind chills out here on the prairie were in the -40s.  But, we made it through both nights without the turkey barns calling us, meaning that the temps stayed steady and everything worked correctly.  In fact, our barns are warmer than my friend's house right now!  As my friend Jent says, #modernagricultureworks)

After 8 months of sitting on the floor in the bathroom, the antique cabinet I bought is finally hung, and I love it more than my five year old loves running the drill. (And that’s a LOT.)


I enlisted the help of said 5-year-old to keep him from fighting with his brother for 10 minutes.  It worked.
2013-12-28 13_45_56

Unfortunately, the little squirt wasn’t strong enough to hold the cabinet while I screwed it in, so we used a convenient diaper box as a jack of sorts.

I taped off the stud’s location (using a super scientific knock-knock-thud method to find it.)  And then Adam’s important job was to check the level.

mark stud with tape

I predrilled 4 holes right in the back of the cabinet, using this bit.

predrill holes

And then switched to a phillips head bit and started the screws.  After I had one in, I let Adam screw in the rest, which made him happier than a penguin eating sushi.

why you need to predrill holes

Look very closely at that last picture.  See to the southwest of the screw I started, there’s an old hole and a crack in the back of the cabinet?  That’s what will happen if you don’t predrill your hole.  And NO, I didn’t make that crack.  It was already there.

pretty bathroom organization
I tore off the blue tape, and then came the fun part…accessorizing!  The tray is antique, hand hammered, from Turkey, I believe. I got it at at antique store nearby because of the orange tones in it.
silver and pewter accesories

A thrift store clock (that doesn’t work, apparently) and some silver? candle holders.  I really have no idea whether or not the tray and votives have any antique value, but to me, they have decorative value, and that’s the important thing.


And now, the glamour shot you’ve all been waiting for…the throne, in all her glory!

cabinet above the toilet

I still have quite a few decorative projects to finish up in this room before I show you the full before and afters.  Prepare to be amazed!

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Why We Raise Turkeys Indoors: Winter Storm Ion

We’re bracing for the cold.  But our turkeys will never know.

State Lows Today

These are current windchills in central Iowa, and it’s forecasted to get even colder tonight. 

Windchills may reach –50 degrees farenheit.  That’s more than 140 degrees lower than our youngest turkeys like it.

But, while schools are cancelled and humans hunker down under blankets, our turkeys will have no idea that record setting cold weather has moved in.

Our turkeys, all 40,000 of them, will be safe and warm inside our barns.  They will continue to have 24 hour access to food and clean water, and the temperature in the barn will stay fairly steady.

turkey barn through the trees

To make sure of this, Bart has done a little bit of work to prepare for Winter Storm Ion, similar to this blizzard last February.  This time, because of the extreme cold, he’s put heat tape and insulation on the tubes that carry feed into the building, so that the feed doesn’t freeze up.  Tonight, and again tomorrow morning, he will check all of the barns to make sure that the turkeys seem comfortable and the equipment is working properly.  If anything goes wrong in between, the barns will send out an alarm, and Bart will bundle up to fix the problem.

But through it all, the turkeys will have no idea what’s going on, and that’s one of the biggest reasons we raise our birds indoors.  Our state of the art barns provide protection from the elements during every season and all types of weather, including record setting cold caused by Winter Storm Ion.

 (Want to see more posts like this in 2014?  Subscribe via email or with an RSS reader.) 

Read how others are dealing with the cold:

Janice at My Colorful Adventures in St. Louis
Carolyn at Carolyn Cares in Minnesota
Kellie from Iowa
Barbara in Virginia