New Adventures

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We have been extremely busy this summer putting some things into action for our kids, and I finally get to share all the news!

If you know us personally, it’s no secret that we are more conservative in our beliefs. Without getting too political here, I have a little story.

Once upon a time (I won’t tell you what year so that we can protect the ever young at heart!), my Grandma was a Girl Scout leader for her girls. The photos of that time are precious to 4 generations of the family. Some years later, my mom was a Boy Scout Den Mother for my older brother’s Cub Scout den and I was a Daisy and Brownie Girl Scout. Even more years later, about 5 years ago, we tried a stint with the Boy Scouts at our son’s school and were sadly disappointed with what we found. Grasshopper opted out of future engagement. Three years ago, I volunteered as troop leader for the Girl Scouts after learning it was the only way Cricket would be able to participate. That troop is still going strong, but we moved.

We have looked and made requests for nearly two years, and we learned that Boy Scouts aren’t around here and the Girl Scouts aren’t really, either. However, the evolution of policies with both organizations had us rethinking our efforts to get the kids involved.

We think we may have found an alternative. I accidentally stumbled on a couple of groups with troops in town: the American Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA. They are Christian-based and reflect our more conservative beliefs. We have now attended two meetings and Grasshopper went on the boys’ camping trip. Both kids are having a blast! (Unfortunately, I can’t post any pictures, because they have other people’s kids in them.)

Meanwhile, we have been working under the radar to get the kids enrolled at one of the local private schools. We considered the Catholic school first, but soon learned that the Lutheran school was far more progressed and had a more challenging structure and curriculum.

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After meeting several of the parents from that school on the sidelines at soccer, it didn’t take much convincing. In the midst of figuring out the various logistics, each “thing” just fell into place, like a perfect domino train. This was meant to happen.

And so we begin our great adventure. Today is the first day of school. I drove the kids to school, but they requested that I simply drop them at the front door because other parents weren’t going inside. No more in the classroom pictures. No more “Come inside with me, Mom,” which was always more of a questioning plea than a statement. It’s bittersweet to watch them grow up. I was hoping to hold her hand just one more time…

Instead, I was able to get one picture at home.

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There was a plan to get a picture in front of the school sign, but the rain you can see on the car windows prevented what the teenager considered utter humiliation. Such a shame, because I had the shot figured out a couple of weeks ago.

There were mixed emotions, of course. A new school brings some fears and anxieties, especially for Cricket. At the same time, it’s exciting and adventurous. We were a few minutes early so we got some silly faces, because they wanted.

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She was trying to be sad, but couldn’t stop giggling.

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There was also the moment that Grasshopper realized he was dressed like Jake from State Farm (if you don’t know the commercial, you should look it up.). He then said he was going to walk very slowly into the school so that he would have to change his shirt.

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I did get to walk into the school, just under different circumstances. Either Grasshopper or I need to change bags because he managed to get out of the car with my computer bag (a backpack), leaving me with his school supplies. I didn’t realize this until I was home, so I made the 30-minute round trip back into town. Thank goodness he actually ran into the school instead of getting drenched!

I caught a glimpse of little miss Cricket on her way to religion class, whispering with a classmate so I know she’ll be okay.

~Mouse

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The Horizon

I’ve been quiet on here for nearly a month. Mainly because I’ve been contemplating some things. I like to blog, and I have so many partial posts–written with no pictures. I’m hoping the new camera will eliminate that, as it is much easier to pop the SD card out of the camera than it is to get the app working on my phone or to download pictures off my phone (a process involving about an hour and 3 rather painstaking steps).

The other issue I have been considering is, now that I have my new camera (and really before that), I have all these extra pictures. I’d go take pictures in the yard and come back with 50 pictures, but only use 5 or 6 of them. The problem was choosing the right ones. The struggle is real, y’all!

Another issue is that I have been attempting to maintain a couple of blogs on different subjects. One for rural living, and the other for planning and being a work-at-home-mom (WAHM). The second hasn’t done much, so it’s semi-retiring. I’ll be taking that content and adding it to a rotation of topics of weekly posts. Yes, weekly is the goal.

And finally, I’ve been contemplating how to add in some recipes. We do a lot of cooking that is absolutely related to our lifestyle. CAT and I were talking one day and I had a revelation. When we lived in the city, we cooked and we were always inspired to cook great dinners. Now that we have 33 acres, soccer, scouts, school, his business obligations, my business obligations, and more, we are less inspired and dinner is mostly about function rather than form. We cook because we have to eat, and the easier the meal, the better. I’ve learned that we don’t have to sacrifice the tasty side of the meal, and I’m sure people can benefit from some of what I’ve figure out.

So, what has all this got to do with a horizon, you ask? Change, my friends. Change is on the horizon. I am in the process of relocating my blog to a new hosting location and reworking it with some surprises in store. Don’t worry, you should see minimal to no difference in the way you receive the blog (email or in your Reader feed), because it’s still powered by WordPress. The type of content will remain, with some new additions in subject matter.

The differences you WILL see:

  1. It will be prettier, because, let’s face it, I’m a girl and I want my blog to be pretty.
  2. More pictures!! On a separate page–yes, pages!!
  3. More streamlined and alive layout. Stagnant is boring, so I’m working on that.
  4. More content (hopefully!), because I hear from good sources that this new program I’m using is amazing for adding content.

Stay tuned. The unveiling is coming, but I’ve been making slow headway in learning this new program. I hit a roadblock, but I think I found the solution! More to come, very soon!

Since I gave you the proverbial horizon, here’s a picture of the actual horizon to enjoy.

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~Mouse

Rural Recreation

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We do a lot around here that is recreation-centric, like building deer blinds so we can. Sometimes, though, you just have to take an evening off. Our neighbor, aka Colonel, invited us to join him for one of the many local tractor pulls. So we all loaded up and headed over. First stop was the concession stand, where we picked up some nachos complete with fake cheese for CAT and I and popcorn for the kids and Colonel.

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Then the fun started. This was a real live tractor pull. Complete with old tractors.

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Dressed up tractors.

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They even had Hot Rod tractors. Yes, you read that correctly.

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We watched most of it, but the skid was having transmission problems so there was a lot of time spent pushing it back to the starting line. It also had issues with the weight plate. When we left at nearly midnight, they were a couple of hours behind.

Next up: County fair.

~Mouse

Rain, Rain, Go Away

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It has been an extraordinarily wet summer here. The field has flooded and the river has been up for most of the summer so far. And the rain has just kept coming. Since it has pretty well prevented much progress on any projects around here other than basic mowing and home maintenance, I thought I would just share some pictures.

The last good storm that came through gave me some time to play with the new camera and catch some pretty nice pictures of the storm heading to the Ridge.

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Two ridges over is now mostly masked by rain.

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And completely masked.

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I accidentally ended up with this really cool picture of the rain starting to fall.

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Now the tress on the opposite side of the river are mostly masked by the rain.

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If you ask the kids, this was the biggest problem with the weather. I might have to rethink electronics time.

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Stay dry!

~Mouse

A visit to my childhood

For July 4th, CAT and I both had 3-day weekends so we took advantage and headed to Texas. We typically stay with my grandparents when we head that way, and there is always some nostalgia.

These two people were a huge part of my life growing up, especially after we moved to Texas.

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I spent a lot time playing with Grandpa at the park when I was young, and hanging out with him as I got older.

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I spent time wanting and trying to be just like my Grandma, who is an amazing woman, by the way.

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That is the house where the official first car photo happened.

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Even at the longest distance, I spent the better part of 20 years living within an hour of them. Those years were rich with traditions, including many, many Christmas Eves all the way into our kids’ early years.

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Anytime we visit, I smile as my grandparents influence and invest in our kids the way they did with me. Every morning my Grandpa would present the paper for the news article of the day. You can choose one, but if you opt to not choose, then Grandpa picks for you. Cricket enjoyed her article on women’s soccer.

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Grasshopper opted out and was given an article to read, I believe from the Wall Street Journal.

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Growing up, the newspaper article was accompanied by the word of the day. My first word of the day was eclectic, followed by defunct and so many more. Since the essential “Big Red Dictionary” lives at my house now, the kids were exempt.  Yes, the book is a true treasure from my childhood and probably an important part of my writing tendencies today.

Then we have hours upon hours in the same pool where I learned to swim. Here I am in all my childhood awesomeness swimming with my Grandma (this might be from my grandparents first Texas home, but, in all fairness, I couldn’t swim in this picture).

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And here are our kids enjoying swim time.

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And Popsicle break.

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There’s always breakfast making for the crew. Cricket helped Grandma with the bacon and taking egg orders (scrambled or fried). Then Cricket and CAT made the eggs.

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The one huge change in tradition, is that picture taking has moved down the line. Grandma has always taken some pictures and still does, but the primary photographer in our family was always my Grandpa. He was often missing from pictures of events because he was behind the camera, but the photographic evidence of my childhood adventures with them, my brothers, and my cousins is precious.

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This weekend, I was there with my new camera…

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Until the battery died and we figured out that we didn’t bring the charging cord. Good thing we live in the technology age, because we all had phones to take more photos.

While there have been changes, especially the part where we live nearly 7 hours away, the fundamentals remain. That house has always been a sort of home-base for me, and a big part of my roots, which is important. It is my hope that one day Ramblin’ Ridge will be that for our children, our grandchildren and, God willing, our great-grandchildren.

The rest of our weekend included a visit with some friends and their new dog (I think we will have a bird dog sooner rather than later despite CAT’s “objections”), dinner with CAT’s parents and my grandparents, and the FC Dallas soccer game with CAT’s sister and family, complete with an amazing fireworks show.

Of course, I can’t leave you without a cute animal photo. So here is Sophie hanging out a very safe distance from the pool at Grandma’s. As much as she loves swimming in the pond, she had no interest in the splashing or pool water.

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~Mouse

**Note: Photo credits to my Grandparents in addition to what CAT and I took!! This post wouldn’t be possible without all those throwback photos.

Picking Your Town

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In October, our little town held its annual Halloween festival. This is a week long ordeal, and the schools even close for two full days.

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The first weekend of December marked the start of the Christmas festivities–the annual Christmas parade. Downtown streets were closed for hours, and shop owners stepped outside to watch and socialize because no one will be in the shops.

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In April, volunteers spread thousands of eggs in the park for kids to find. They also did several fundraising events to support a renovation of the huge park and zoo in town.

In June, our town honored over 250 Vietnam Veterans with awards that they were never given and a ceremony that never happened when they all returned. Our good friend and neighbor was among the recipients, so of course we attended.

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There was a parade, an awards ceremony, and a huge flag.

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For reference, here is our full-sized Toyota Tundra under the flag (CAT had to work so he met us in town and I have lucky timing sometimes).

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Through all of these events the common thoughts between CAT and I were that “I love our town!” and “I’m so glad we picked THIS town!”

In 2013, when CAT received the official job offer we drove the 350 miles the next day to poke around the area, with the kids and the dogs (only 2 at the time) in tow. It was a whirlwind of an adventure over the next 3 weeks as we decided we were all-in and searched for a house.

In this area, the towns don’t run together like they do in DFW. You typically have 15 to 20 miles, or more, between each town. Purchasing a home at that point is not just about the home or the land, but it also means choosing the town with which you would like to identify.

We had to consider several things, including distance to CAT’s office and the school system. The schools are about the size of the kids’ previous school despite rural spread, because we opted for a town about the same size as we left–10,000 residents. CAT’s office is just 20 miles, which in the city would have taken him between 1.5 and 2 hours. Here, it takes him about 20 minutes. Unless there is a traffic jam, which is a tractor on the road moving between fields.

Mostly, it was about the feel of the town. Each town had it’s own appeal, but this one was charming and quaint. Our realtor was based in this town and she did a fine job with the grand tour. It has a drive-through zoo, a huge park, a water park, great schools, quaint little shops, and lots of rural, Mid-America charm. They hang banners above the streets for every occasion and put up lights at Christmas. They talk to you when you walk into one of the shops, and not just a hello; there’s a full conversation. They are welcoming.

Most of the residents are invested in their town, and the town is invested in its residents. It just felt right.

It has been two years since we chose this house, and it feels even more right. Especially after the goose-bump inducing honor of watching those 250 Kansas-resident Veterans, or family members, walk across the stage.

If you served, thank you for your service. If you are a Gold Star or Blue Star family, thank you for your sacrifices.

~Mouse

Rural Living is Eclectic

It really is! The last month has been a hodgepodge of just real life living.

I traveled twice for work, taking the kids with me for one trip. Shout out to my Dad and Mum for giving them an amazing week in Orlando while I worked. I did get the fun of that first Disney experience over the weekend before we headed back. The only “thing” missing was CAT, who stayed behind due to work commitments.

The forced smile from Grasshopper pretty much defines the trip of “Hey, smile so I can take your picture. Try again. No really… Take 3. Smile dude! Fine, good enough.” And Cricket’s look by the third or fourth attempt at each shot. Overall it was a lot of fun though.

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Back at home base, our neighbor brought us gallons of cherries that the kids washed and pitted so I could freeze them for cobblers and ice cream later. After pitting them for hours across multiple days using the pinching method, they decided that we need a couple of cherry pitters in time for next year’s harvest. Next up: blackberries!

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The temperamental weather has not done any good as far as the garden goes. We have a few things trying to produce, but most of my second round seeds didn’t make it after rotting from too much rain. That was after a 50% sprouting on the first round. I got a few sugar snap peas off the plants before they withered away.

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Most of the herbs drowned, but I did have a good return on the mint and oregano from last year. I have been clipping and drying them both periodically.

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The very edge of that picture is the ONE salad worth of lettuce that actually came up. The other 5 plants drowned, so no garden fresh lettuce this year. We’ve had a couple of strawberries and I am hoping for a few more this week, now that the bunnies quit stealing my plants. Yes, whole plants went missing.

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Meanwhile, we have been able to get a few projects done around here. Well, mostly done. CAT brought a big storage cabinet home to help manage the stuff in the shop. We put some large casters on it and had quite the adventure getting out of the trailer. But it’s standing. Next up is cleaning and painting.

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Especially the shelves.

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My boys worked hard at getting some rock out on the driveway. It was getting rough in some spots and slippery in the rain in others.

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This was my view, driving the truck as they shoveled the rock out of the trailer.

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In the midst of projects, the dryer decided to stop working. So we did a quick internet search, and we were able to determine the issue. Thankfully, it was a pretty inexpensive and easy fix. So easy, in fact, that I took the dryer back apart, installed the new part, and put it back together by myself.

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All that fuss for that little white conductor. But we can dry clothes now.

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On our last trip to the city, we picked up a ballast for the light in my closet that had not been working well. CAT made that a priority (so good to me!) and got it repaired.

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While he was at it, he fixed the light in the garage that was having the same issues.

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While he worked on that, I started on the new garage door opener. It looked something like this all spread out over the garage floor. Tank is supervising. The opener is together and hanging. We just need to level the door out and hook it all up.

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That pretty much sums up our time since the rain has stopped and we can actually get some things done around here. Oh, and cute kittens, just because. Here are Boots and Blinkin, trying successfully to be adorable.

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Oh, CAT did buy me a new camera, so image quality might improve if I remember to grab it before projects… 🙂

~Mouse

April Showers Bring May Floods

Like much of the central US, our area has been inundated with higher than normal rainfall. The result is that most of our outdoor projects have been put on hold. It also meant an extended soccer season, which put most of our indoor projects on hold.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve carefully monitored the level of the river. While our house sits on top of a ridge some 80 or 100 feet above the river bed, we do have a field down there adjacent to the river with hunting equipment and a small boat.

A quick drive into town via the dirt roads gives us a pretty solid idea of the river level. Yes, those are tree TOPS touch and partially in the water. And we’re talking big, tall trees along the river bank. That’s also a whole tree floating down the river.

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From the house, we can see the water when the river is up, but still in its banks as it was last week. This weekend, the river has run over the banks in many areas near the house, including some crop fields that we can see. That brown stuff on either side of the center tree is water. The left side of that tree is normally a dry crop field.

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Last week, we went down to the field and pulled the boat out of the creek which was up significantly.We pulled it from the water and tied it to a different tree a little further up.

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Here’s a view of what is normally a barely trickling creek. A week ago it was about 10 feet wide and at least 10 feet deep. At this point, we cannot even get to the creek.

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CAT also wired the hunting tripod near the river to a large tree.

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We were discussing putting out some catfish lines in the creek, but, now that the river is up and the field is flooded, we’re are just hoping our little boat is still where we left it. The tripod now has water half-way up the legs, or about where CAT’s feet are in the picture above, if you can pick it out among the trees and debris at the legs. It’s about center in this picture behind the diagonal tree trunk.

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Here CAT is standing where the end of our field road would be. This is normally still on the downhill slope of the road from the top of the ridge. We didn’t risk walking any further into the water.

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A day later, the water was up another 2 or 3 feet. Unfortunately, it looks like we are expecting more rain over the next week and the corps are planning to release additional water from upstream. It looks like any field projects or river fishing is out of the question for awhile.

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Here’s hoping for drier weather soon!

~Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

Making It Our Own, Part 2: The Emerald… Carpet

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Home ownership comes with a myriad of never-ending projects. As I previously mentioned, we bought our property for the land, not the house. The house is absolutely, mostly functional, and oh so colorful. We’ve already tamed the purple bathroom. This time we started in on the floors. (Excuse the picture quality. Natural light is always best, but this area of the house is pretty limited in that department.)

Except for “wet” rooms, the entire house was carpeted. With very green carpet. That is original to house. And is very worn.

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The main concern was the common areas. Between the kids and the dogs, and honestly, my own mucky boots, the floors needed vacuuming every other day, sometimes every day! Who has time for that?!? Not this girl or her amazing husband that vacuums. That was eating up at least 3 hours every week. The front entry was a constant battle and had collected many new stains since we moved in.

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(Grasshopper feet there, ready to work!)

The hallway to the bedrooms had its own share of problems, and the carpet was extremely worn out right down the center, creating a dingy brownish look to the carpet.

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As you can see we have a lot of books in the family room, so we had to move all of those out to the porch temporarily. The kids wanted me to get rid of CAT’s and my books, but they didn’t complain about moving theirs. Go figure.

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The after effect is a mostly smooth concrete floor. We do have little holes along the edges where we pulled the tack strip up that will need to be filled.

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A before and after look from the opposite direction in the family room. Also a look at CAT developing a plan and then surveying the completed work.

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Sophie is demonstrating the heightened appreciation for puppy beds around here, especially during the unusually cool weather we have had to date.

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Our plan is to eventually put in solid wood floors throughout, though we might rethink that given our affinity for large breed dogs that are inside pets. However, that’s a step for 3 or 5 years from now. We have a few walls to rip out and a kitchen to relocate or at least plan before we can purchase that flooring all at one time.

Meanwhile, we are going down to sub-floor level. At least in the rooms with concrete. The plan is to stain the concrete. By that, I mean that we are going to hire a contractor to come in do all of that work.That comes after the wall behind the big couch comes out in the next 8 to 12 months.

We are still on hold with two other rooms because they are on a wood sub-floor over the basement until we come up with a plan we can execute quickly. One of those is my “office” (aka, the formal living room), the other is the formal dining that is slated to become an enclosed office during remodel.

The next undertaking will be the green kitchen and breakfast room walls. While we are considering a (very) washed down version of this color for the exterior of the house, we would prefer a more neutral tone for inside. My hope is that it will make the room seem less dark and more open until we can do the remodel.

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Happy Summer!

~Mouse

Spring on the Ridge

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Spring brings new life to the Ridge. It also brings some pretty dramatic weather. Today, we have had torrential downpours, sunshine, and now cloudy, grey skies. Grasshopper took this photo at bus pickup one day when the clouds were particularly dramatic. It looked as though someone had painted the sky.

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I’m sitting at the kitchen table today, catching up here and watching my boys work hard. Last year for Mother’s Day, I received a gift that will give for many years: an apple tree, a cherry tree, and a peach tree. This year, my CAT brought me a white peach, another cherry, and a pear tree to add to the orchard. Today, CAT and Grasshopper are digging holes for the new trees, hopefully before the next round of storms hits us.

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Meanwhile, the rest of our yard has finally sprung, much delayed by significant fluctuations in weather over the last few months. The first signs of Spring around here are the vibrant daffodils. I’m two for two on being out of town when it happens. Last year, we were in Texas and came home to discover them bloomed; this year I was traveling for work.

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We kick off the season with our annual birthday bash as the first shop party since CAT and I share April as a birth month. The party involves shrimp, Crawfish, Texas style BBQ, friends, and lots of laughs. Oh, and cake, of course. Here’s my masterpiece from this year.

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What most people don’t know is that our first spring was full of “surprise” flowers. We had no idea what to expect when we bought the house, other than the previous owner had sporadically planted rather than traditional planned out beds. Next come the irises. They are planted all over the front yard and we have a plethora of colors–yellow, multiple shades of purple, and purple and white (my favorites).

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We also have several peony plants that give us these beauties in multiple shades of pink. The start out very deep pink and slowly fade to a soft, almost white pink.

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Spring is also a time of heavy yard work. While most of the property is left to its own devices, we do keep a large area around the house mowed and some trails mowed down to the ponds for easier walking. During our first Spring here, we discovered many tree stumps and rocks in these areas. With the mower blades. On the riding mower and the tractor shredder. So they were in desperate need of attention. This means pulling the mower into the shop, climbing under, and removing the blades. I volunteered to take the second blade off my mower after watching CAT with the first one.

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The blades were in rough shape. Dull and lots of dings from hitting tree stumps and rocks. I’ve since marked the stumps so I can avoid them in the future.

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CAT went to work with the grinder to get them cleaned up and ready for some much needed mowing.

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While they will get us through this season, we’ll be buying new blades for my little mower next year.

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Then CAT went to work on the shredder. He uses this to maintain our field in the river bottom and to keep some nice walking paths for his lovely wife to use to go fishing at the ponds. This exercise involves using the tractor to lift up the shredder and bracing it on floor jacks to keep it from falling. Tank is helping.

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To be clear, Tank helping involves dropping a tennis ball at CAT’s feet and hoping it will get thrown.

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The shredder didn’t really need sharpening since the tool relies more on speed of the blades and less on sharp edges. CAT made sure the blade arms were loosened up, cleaned some of the grit and build-up out of there, and called it good.

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His and hers mowing equipment. No, we are not a normal couple–no monogrammed towels here.

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Happy Spring!

~Mouse