KatieOlthoff.com participates in affiliate marketing and other forms of advertising. We only recommend products and services we believe in and think they will be of use to you. As such, posts on this website may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read my disclosure policy. Thank you for your support of this website and our family.

7 Miles from a Bird Flu Nightmare

Wednesday morning, we got baby turkeys.  20,000 one-day old poults.

Less than two hours later, we got a call – bird flu was found on a turkey farm 7 miles from us.
7 miles!

We were scheduled to load out turkeys in 10 days.

We market 5 or 6 flocks a year. So loading out is a big deal.  A successful flock means that we get paid.  And it’s a big check. Not only does it cover the expenses for the flock (which has been on the farm for 5 months) but it also allows us to make payments on our barns and equipment.

And it’s our main source of income. A successful flock = 1/6 of our annual income.

We HAVE to get these birds to market. One more flock means 2 more months of normal-ness.

We’ve started cutting back expenses.  And I’ve been looking for a full time job (I work 10 hours a week for the Iowa Turkey Federation right now.) But if we got bird flu, we’d be in a world of hurt.

Because if we had a bird flu outbreak on our farm, we wouldn’t lose just one flock.  We’d lose the infected flock, of course, but other flocks on our farm would be euthanized. Right now, we have 3 flocks.  3 flocks = 1/2 of our annual production. The gov’t would pay us for the euthanized birds – just enough to cover the expenses (feed, etc.) – but not enough to make barn payments or equipment payments, and certainly not enough for us to draw any income.

And then, the clean out process and repopulation process could take months. We would sit out at least 2 flocks, and it would take another 6 months after that to get back up to full production.  Are you doing the math with me? We’re talking about at least 5 flocks, plus a few more months before our birds would be ready for market.  That’s huge. Mostly because our barn payments are gigantic.

So, it was 10 days until we load out.

And the latest turkey farm with bird flu is 7 miles from us.  7 miles! I know people that regularly jog 7 miles.

Within a few hours, we were getting ready to load out sooner.  ASAP, really. First, fat samples had to be taken (and tested) and another blood test to make sure that our birds weren’t infected with avian influenza (it’s standard – we test every single flock and always have.) The tests came back “clean” yesterday and Bart loaded out last night, 8 days ahead of schedule, in order to keep from losing a fully-grown flock.

Turkey Farmers in IowaI’m trying to stay positive and look at this with some perspective.  We DON’T have bird flu on our farm right now.  We have good friends who have had outbreaks – the worry we feel right now is nothing compared to the devastation they feel. Our family is healthy, and there are literally millions of people going through worse situations as we speak.

We’re not (yet) in a bird flu nightmare – it’s still just a bad dream for us.

But it’s still sort of hard. Okay, fine, really hard.
There are times when I can’t think about anything else.  There are times when I feel like all my brain power is going towards this one thing.  There are times when I just want to curl up in a ball and binge on netflix and Candy Crush.

(On a side note, I’m SO GLAD Wade and Zoe ended up together, and the last episode of Hart of Dixie was just perfect.)

Bart’s been a rock during this.  He has always been more laid back than me.  We’re both pretty optimistic, but he’s a lot better at managing his worry.

Wherever I go, people ask me how I’m doing, and tell me they’re praying for us.  It means so much to me. Lately, when they ask how I’m doing, I’ve been able to truthfully say that I’m doing well! Minnesota had gone 10 days without a new case of bird flu! And it’s been slowing down in Iowa, too!  We were starting to feel a lot better about the situation!

And now, it’s 7 miles away.

So much for “feeling better.”

Last night, the boys and I ran to the gas station to get snacks for Bart & the load out crew. They usually load out in two nights, but they did the entire flock last night – it took them from 8 pm to 5 am.

While we were picking out our goodies, a few guys walked in to the gas station. When I turned around and saw their shirts, I wanted to puke. They work for the contractor who has been cleaning up infected farms – they’d spent all day on the infected farm and were stopping for supper on their way to their hotel. And we were at the gas station at the same time.

They assured me they’d properly decontaminated, but I know they hadn’t showered yet. Experts say the virus isn’t airborne, but it can be “vector-borne through the air” meaning it hitches a ride on dust or feathers.

As we headed home, I realized that the crew was driving right past our farm. It makes me feel dirty just thinking about it. Maybe I overreacted, but we stopped at the end of the driveway, washed the truck with disinfectant, and I made the boys strip down outside. I took their clothes straight to the washing machine and threw mine in, too (reds and whites and blacks – oh my!) and then the three of us showered.
Seems crazy, doesn’t it? This is our reality.

This blog – I know my blog has been sort of inconsistent lately.  A serious post about a bird flu, surrounded by home décor and gardening posts. Sort of random, right?  But it’s how I deal. At least part of my life needs to feel “normal.” I can’t just wallow in worry everyday, and neither can this blog.  Focusing my attention on something as trivial as home décor (because let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things, it is trivial) is a way of coping.

Plus, knowing that I may be going back to work full time for the first time in 5 years has lit a fire beneath me. I know that there will be a definite transition, and it will be made easier by an organized house, which has led to the closet projects and garage sales and purging.

People keep asking if we’ll replace the flock we just sent to market.  The answer is YES! As I said before, we are committed to this, even though it seems crazy risky right now.  The 2 day old poults in the brooder house will end up in the finishers we just loaded out. This flock will load out in about 135 days.

We just keep on keeping on, because that’s the only thing we can do right now.

That, and pray.

One-of-a-Kind Letter Shelves for my Boys’ Room


diy letter shelvesI’m really bad at tutorials for DIY projects.  And I’m bad at following them.  I’m much more of a “figure-it-out-as-you-go” DIYer.

And this project definitely falls into that category.  File it under the labels No Tutorial and Trial and Error.

I think of it sort of like Legos.  You can buy the super expensive kit and follow the directions to build something really cool.  Or, you can design and build your own creation (as my boys call it) that is unique, one of a kind, and not exactly replicable, the way Master Builders do.

I like to think of myself as a Master Builder. Except my woodworking skills and (lack of) attention to detail would make Norm Abram cry.

(Sorry, Norm.)

Anyway, that was a long way of saying that I do NOT have a tutorial for this project, just some general guidelines and inspiration pictures.

Materials for DIY Letter Shelves


letter I shelf

The I Letter Shelf was definitely easier to build than the A, so we started with that one.  I drew an I on 1/4 inch plywood and cut it out with the jigsaw.  Then, we used pallet wood to build the sides of the shelf.

pallet wood shelfLittle boy's room with dark walls

Tip: The easiest way to tear apart pallets is to have your husband do it for you. He likes to use the sawzall and cut right through the nails.

 working with pallet wood

My friend and I measured and cut the pallet wood to fit the shape of the I, then glued and nailed the frame together.  2015-02-21 14_00_49

Then, we attached the frame to the backing with the finish nailer.

how to build a letter shelf

And voila! The I was finished in no time.

DIY letter I shelf from pallet wood

The A, on the other hand, took a bit more thinking.DIY letter A shelf

I started the same way – by drawing an A on the 1/4 inch plywood.  I used a tape measure and straight edge, and drew the parallel lines first, then connecting them with the diagonals, measuring to make sure everything was symmetrical.Letter A Shelf


Building the frame required that we figure out the angles.  We did it in a super scientific way – cutting scrap wood at various angles until we got it just right (22.5 degrees.)

stained trim and dark walls

I have good news for you here, though.  THE ANGLES ARE ALL THE SAME! Once you figure it out, it’s the same for each corner.

pallet wood and dark walls

The shelf is now FULL of Lego creations from my little Master Builder. (I guess he takes after his mom…or maybe it’s the other way around.)

DIY pallet shelf

If you want a real tutorial for letter shelves, it just so happens that Home Stories A to Z has one!

Little boy's shared room

Check out the other projects in this room:

closet makeoverchicken feeders forward facing bookshelves










Shared at Home Stories A to Z

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?

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!)