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Backcountry Winery


You guys, I’m so excited!  There is a new winery in my neighborhood!

About a week ago, I read about Backcountry Winery on Jill’s blog and after some sleuthing, found out that the new winery is only 8 miles from my house – smack in between the home I grew up in and the home I live in now!

I didn’t know the exact location, but I read on the Backcountry Winery blog that they were working on the barn’s roof.  And as I drove from my parents’ house to mine one evening, I spotted a brick barn with a brand new roof.  So of course, I drove by slowly, gawking.  (I may or may not have stalker like tendencies.)

gableAnyway, after a little more stalking, I convinced the owners to let me come out and take a look around.  Preston and Amber are young Iowa State grads with a vision and the work ethic to make that vision a reality.

They both work full time “in town” and then spend evenings and weekends working on the winery. 

The plan is to renovate the old brick dairy barn on the property. 


The first floor will have a wine tasting room, bathrooms, and the actual winery. 


The loft will become a large event center and reception hall.


Preston and Amber have the dream, and a plan to make it a reality.  But, as we all know, these kinds of plans take money.  A lot of it.

IMG_2152They are anticipating that the whole project will cost nearly $150,000.  And they want to be open for events in the spring of 2016.  To help make this happen, they have a Kickstarter campaign for $10,000 – enough to reroof the barn (already done) and pour the concrete on the main floor.


Unfortunately, the Kickstarter campaign ends SOON (March 31!) and they are about a 1/4 of the way to their goal.  I didn’t realize this, but Kickstarter is all or nothing.  If they don’t make it to their goal, they don’t get any of the funds donated.

So I’m asking for your help – if you believe in these kids, and believe that it’s important to follow our dreams, even when the odds are stacked against us, consider backing their project.  Every little bit helps! IMG_2149-8018(rev 0)

Three Beautiful Bedrooms (And one for the boys)

Remember Sarah’s house? (The one that’s FOR SALE!)

I’m back today to show you the amazing bedrooms in her house – all four of them!




First up, the little boy’s room.  The lofted bed leaves plenty of space to play.


The closet is also spacious – oh, what I wouldn’t do for closets like that in our house!


Next up is little M’s room.  Such a beautiful nursery.


The mural was hand painted by Sarah’s aunt…


Sarah made the slipcover for the rocking chair…


And she also made the curtains. I LOVE the tulle on top of the draperies – so pretty.


Another big closet.  Seriously jealous.


The master bedroom, across the hall, echoes the living room color scheme.


The headboard was a DIY project, of course.


And the bedroom opens up to a walk in closet and private master bath. (Did I already say I’m green with envy?)


Finally, the guest room in the basement.


I want to move in.


If you haven’t already, check out the first half of this home tour.  And if you know anyone looking for a home in Central Iowa, send them Sarah’s way!

Like having a baby…for my boys.


IMG_2120-7990(rev 0)I had some other blog posts planned for the week, but as usual, real life got in the way.

Or, I should say, “farm life” got in the way.

Last year, Adam raised a bottle lamb for the fair, and we have been planning to do it again this year.

But the thing is, we didn’t know exactly when we’d get a lamb.  So we were sort of prepared, but not really.2015-03-22 15_06_43

Sunday morning, our neighbor called and said that he had a set of triplets, and one wasn’t nursing.  He had to bottle feed it every few hours around the clock, and he was getting tired of that, fast.  And so, we picked it up Sunday afternoon, and now we’re bottle feeding it around the clock.

Bottle feeding an older lamb is easy – they grab right on and suck it down as fast as possible.

But new lambs are sort of like new babies.  They don’t always have the hang of it right away.  Our new lamb, Cuddles, seemed to be chewing on the nipple, more than sucking on it.  And even after a few minutes, the level of milk in the bottle didn’t budge.

2015_03_23_17_12_42(rev 0)

I couldn’t help but think back to the first few days of nursing my boys.  Is he swallowing?  Did he get enough?  Does he have a good latch? What time should I feed him again?

All of the uncertainty came rushing back.  I know it’s silly, comparing our lamb to a newborn baby, and I know that my feelings for this lamb are never, ever going to measure up to what I feel for my kids.  But caring for that new lamb still brings out maternal feelings.

I’m hoping, in some way, that it makes my boys feel the same way.  That maybe by taking care of a young, vulnerable animal, they’ll learn a little bit of the compassion and dedication it takes to be great parents some day.  Maybe they’ll learn to put someone else’s needs first and the joy a parent feels as their child (or lamb) grows.


Cuddles is drinking her milk better now.  Tonight she actually drained what we had mixed up for her. And we were so relieved.  It’s nuts to think how anxious we are about a lamb.

But this is good training for my boys.  Because some day, they won’t be little farm kids anymore.  They’ll be grown up.  Maybe they’ll be farmers.  Probably they’ll be fathers.

And these experiences, worrying over the welfare of a lamb, will help prepare them for the situations in life where compassion, commitment, and problem solving really matter.


2015_03_22_19_27_18(rev 0)

Spring on the Porch

I love decorating.  Really love putting furniture and accessories together to create a beautiful space.
But so often, I don’t take the time to do it because there are so many other things I SHOULD be doing…like cleaning the house.  Or getting the flower beds ready for spring.  Or picking up sticks because we have about 5 acres to mow on our farm. Or, I don’t know, paying bills or something like that.

But one gorgeous day last week, I spent an hour taking down the Christmas garland and decorating the front porch for spring.

And the joy that hour in the sunshine brought me? Priceless.

front porch

The plants on the porch are fake.  Although we’ve had some beautiful weather for March, it’s still too early for real plants here in Iowa.  The countryside is still brown, and I wanted some color.  I stopped at one of my favorite “junk” shops (The Sister Act in Ellsworth, IA) and picked up the forsythia branches for $1.25.

  spring forsythia decor
The topiary is one that I’ve had for awhile. I think I paid $5.99 for it at the Goodwill.  I tore it out of it’s ugly basket and put it in an old enamel-ware pot, instead.

front porch rocker

I’d like another pop of yellow – maybe a pillow – but that requires that I work with my arch nemesis, the sewing machine, so I’m holding off on that.  Sometimes beauty isn’t worth the pain.
And I need to hang the “Porch Rules” sign (from Bells Mill Creations) but I’m afraid to hang anything on our relatively new HardieBoard siding.  (Has anyone tried the outdoor Command hooks?)

grainsack wicker loveseat

The side table is actually a piano bench.  I bought it at a junk shop for $5 and painted the grainsack stripe on it.  It’s not really weather resistant, but for $5, who cares?

forsythia blooms

Did anyone else notice the chipping paint on the door? It needs repainted – red?  Yellow?

queen anne front porch

Just a few days after I took these pictures, the porch is now covered in toy tractors.  And the boys and I have enjoyed a couple of picnic lunches out there. It is truly one of our favorite places on the farm, even with it’s imperfections.

farmhouse porch
porch decor
spring porch decor

Shared at Funky Junk Interiors, Thrifty Decor Chick

Why We Farm #AgDay2015

2014-10-07 16_06_21Farming is not always easy.
Bart works a LOT. Seven days a week, 365 days a year. No holidays off. No vacation days.

And it’s not always pleasant work. It’s often hard, physical labor, in less than ideal conditions. From the 90 degree brooder house for baby turkeys (poults) to banging ice off of frozen exhaust fans at midnight in a blizzard.

And let’s talk about the middle of the night. Our barns have a sophisticated ventilation system. And normally, the system senses weather changes and adjusts itself. But when the weather changes too quickly, it can’t adjust, and so Bart gets an “alarm” call from the computers. Those weather changes are often thunderstorms or blizzards that roll in during the night. Which means Bart gets out of bed in sometimes severe, sometimes downright scary weather, to take care of his turkeys.

And then there’s the financial risk. I’m going to be frank here. It cost a LOT of money to build our barns. More money than any average, middle-class non-farmer can fathom. So we have a LOT of debt. And paying off that debt hinges on having healthy turkeys and a place to sell them.  Disease issues, market fluctuations, consumer demand…those all affect our ability to keep farming.

In the 1980s, thousands of farm families LOST their farms because of the farm crisis. Bart and I recently discussed what that would look like for us - what we would do, and what we would miss, if we lost our farm.


The financial part of it would suck. Really suck. Bankruptcy, selling the house we’ve worked so hard on, the house that three generations of his family have lived in…that would suck.

New jobs? Yes, Bart and I could get different jobs. But I haven’t worked full time in over 4 years, and Bart’s been his own boss for 6 years. Regular jobs would be a big transition for both of us.

And moving to town? We love our 7 acres. We love the quietness and the room for our boys to roam.
Our lives would change drastically, but we agreed that most of that would be manageable. We would adjust. Our boys would adjust.

The hardest part, though? The hardest part of losing our farm?


The hardest part would be losing the opportunity to raise our boys here. We dream of them working on the farm alongside their dad more and more as they grow. We dream of them raising their 4-H animals in the outbuildings here. We dream of them coming home on weekends to help on the farm when they are in college. And yes, we dream that someday, we can pass this farm down to them, making them the 4th generation in the Olthoff family to raise turkeys.


Farming is more than a job. It is a way of life. And losing that way of life would crush us.
So when it comes down to it, that’s why we farm. It’s for these two and what the future holds for them on our family farm.

  2014-09-14 15_55_11
Read more about our family farm:

House Tour: Fun, DIY Decorating

Who goes to a garage sale and leaves with a new friend?   This girl!

Last summer, I went to a garage sale and the homeowner, Sarah, had some great stuff, including a DIY headboard bench.  I told her that if the bench didn’t sell, she could consign it at The HomeShed, and a few days later, she called for me to pick it up.

Then, we worked together to build three more benches, and became good friends in the process.
Now, the family is getting ready to move.  Sarah’s husband is in the Navy, and he’s been in Central Iowa for the ROTC program at Iowa State.  But at the end of the semester, they move on.

So, Sarah’s house is for sale, and while it’s all spiffed up, I ran over to take some pictures.



Sarah has SO many fun DIY projects in this house, and I’ll show you more of them in another post.  I wish I had known her soon so I could have photographed tutorials for the blog!


The house has a great open floor plan and spacious living areas.


But Sarah’s DIY projects have turned the house into a home.


I love Sarah’s attitude – even though she knew this was a temporary home, just a stop along the way, she’s taken the time to make it really work for their family, and customized it with lots of DIY details.


This winter, we’ve been working on projects together for BOTH of our houses, and it’s been so fun to have a friend that shares my passion for DIY d├ęcor.


Like these chairs – I tracked down the chairs (from The Sister Act in Ellsworth, Iowa) and Sarah painted them.  She wants to paint the other 4, but I kind of like the mismatched look.


See how they match the cabinets?


Sarah is an Ikea addict (I don’t think she’ll mind me saying so) but you can tell the creative gene runs in her family.  Her aunt hand painted all the character signs on this side of the basement.  This is only 1/2 of the big family room downstairs. (The other half holds a pool table which was doubling as a sewing table when I was there.)


There is also a media room in the basement, which Sarah refers to as “Josh’s Room.”


sarah's diy decor house tour

Like I said, the house is for sale.  It backs up to an elementary school on the west side of Ames, Iowa and is listed with Hunziker. 

Stay tuned for the adorable bedrooms next week, and pin this post to keep these photos for inspiration in YOUR home!

Shared at Funky Junk Interiors