Growing our own–Garden prep and seed starting

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Our move to rural Kansas came with so many new things-new schools, my husband’s new job, new house, new adventures, and SNOW! We had an abundance of snow during our first winter here. This was our view on multiple occasions.

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Thank goodness it has been a fairly mild winter this year, though we are in desperate need of rain.

Another new adventure included our garden. This is an ongoing and growing effort (pun intended). Last year we started a single raised bed that is 24 feet by 16 feet, and the results were plentiful. This was an early season harvest, and we were collecting this at least twice a week.

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We opted for raised beds for two reasons. First, the house and shop area sit atop a ridge that is solid rock. We didn’t want to dig through rock, just to back fill with dirt and manure. Second, the ground is not level, so raised beds allow us to control the soil level and prevent erosion.

We are just getting started with our garden adventures this year, thanks to some late winter weather over the last few weeks and a few tractor repairs. We are slightly behind schedule, but making headway.

The first project was to stake down the wood from last year’s garden now that we’ve decided it works well where it is. This meant drilling holes through two levels of wood, cutting Rebar, and driving the stakes into the ground.

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We are fortunate enough to have a large shop where I can start seeds early. Last year, CAT built me these great work tables. The tops open up for off season storage, or for setting up a green house effect.

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I ordered the small pots from Amazon last year, and I’m able to reuse all of them this year. Cricket and I planted seeds in regular potting soil to get things growingIMG_20150307_155015_107.

After the shop cats knocked over many of the planters last year, which caused the Popsicle stick labels to come out of the planters, we are trying a new method this year. Cricket helped me out so we will have “cheery” tomatoes, rather than cherry tomatoes. Either way, they are bound to be tasty.

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Last year we debated between purchasing growing lights or building our own. With so many projects on the list, we decided to purchase for now. Cricket and I also added diagrams to our setup in case the paper labels got wet and smeared.

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I hope to build some into the table one day, which would allow me to close the lid over the plants for the first week. For now, we hang a tarp to hold in the warmth. It seems to work pretty well.

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Outside, we are expanding to a second bed. This one will be twice as large as the original bed, which will allow us to harvest the garden from May until October. Our first run gave us fresh produce from May until July. The first step is to plow the ground. We would normally use the big tractor for this, but it’s currently in repair phase. So, CAT and I took turns on the Little Green Monster (a 1962 Sears Suburban 725 garden tractor) to get the ground ready.

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Cricket is working in the old bed to clear out the weeds that made it through the winter. CAT leveled out a couple of low spots while I finished plowing. Most of the leveling will happen after we disc the ground. Sophie and Tank helped with quality control.

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Next up, we disc, bring in the lumbar for side walls, and fill with a mix of manure and dirt. We should have hearty seedlings to put in the ground by mid-April. More to come soon. Meanwhile, we are preparing for Spring soccer and a shop party in April, plus some family visits.

~Mouse

 

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Being a ‘No’ Parent

It’s been some time since my last post, but it has been a hectic time. Both Cricket and Grasshopper participated in the fall soccer program, which entails 3 days a week of games and practices for 2 hours each day for the duration of 6 weeks. That means that CAT was busy coaching and I was busy being the administrator.

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We also celebrated a very important birthday in the midst of soccer. Grasshopper is officially a teenager.

We also adopted a new dog, Sophie. She is just over 2 years old and needed a lot of attention–training, spaying (no puppies in this house!), general vetting, flea removal, and just flat out TLC to help her adjust. I am definitely her person.

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Immediately after soccer season, CAT and I began an alternating travel schedule. I traveled for a week. The following week, CAT was gone for part of the week. Then we were both gone for the majority of the week after. And the last week of October our little town held its annual Halloween festival, complete with rides, carnival food, and parades. So we were just flat out busy with family time.

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I’ve since traveled again for work, and hunting season began, taking us to Texas and Western Kansas to fill our freezer for the year. It also means training dogs to track deer.

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That time was not without education, for me. Let’s start with the fact that I work in technology. On one of my journeys, I had the pleasure of spending my lunch with one of our clients, also a parent, named Tim. We avoided the topic of the conference because we were pretty spent on that topic. Instead, we ended up talking about our kids.

During the conversation, Tim labeled himself as a “Yes parent” (YP) and me as a “No parent” (NP) in regard to electronics. As a YP, Tim’s 12-year-old had her own tablet, laptop, and smartphone. She had constant access to information and electronic entertainment. She struggled in school and he struggled with the electronics. She was sending text messages at dinner and was on the phone after bedtime. Even grounding her from the phone was impossible because he had come to rely on it to communicate with her.

As NPs, our children have no cell phones. They share a tablet that belongs to the family. We have a desktop computer that is older, that they share. We have a Wii, but the games are sports and trivia games that require them to move around or think. The Wii is connected to our only television.

We do have DISH, but a package just big enough to get ESPN to watch March Madness and the World Cup (priorities). Anything not rated PG or below is locked and requires a password, which means that the show must be Mouse-approved. Their time on electronics is earned by having good grades, doing chores, and following the rules. They only get 30 minutes a day during the week and must choose what device is most important to them that day. On weekends they may watch morning cartoons, but only until 9. If you sleep until 8:45, tough luck.

Our kids get toys at Christmas and birthdays that encourage outside play, like basketballs and a goal, soccer gear, tether ball, and croquet. They have basically unlimited access to books of all types. We buy books at auctions, and we frequent the local secondhand bookstore. They often get gift cards to bookstores as gifts, which they love.

The discussion with Tim was mostly a comparison. No one was deemed right or wrong. There was no “My parenting is better because…”, and no judgement. I expressed the challenges of being a NP in a world of YPs. The YPs are everywhere and always telling me why our kids should have phones and more electronics, and fewer chores and responsibilities. And their children tell our children how Mom cleans their bedroom and they don’t have chores; they just do whatever they want. That makes it hard to stand your ground.

By the end of the conversation, I was a little more pro-YP. I came home and upgraded the TV rating from Y-7 to PG. Our children still do not have cell phones, but there are times when we loan them one of ours if the situation warrants. CAT carries one for work and one personal, so we have a ‘spare’, especially if we are together. One of Tim’s parting comments was, “I need to be more of a NP. She needs more boundaries and less encouragement. Thank you!” I was pleased to hear that someone agreed with my parenting choices, because, aside from CAT, I generally hear that I’m wrong.

How on earth does this relate to rural versus urban? I’ve been excited to see that fewer children here have phones compared to our previous school. Even at the older ages, the kids are still without smartphones. This is mostly because we see more parents actually with their kids. Middle school parents actually come to soccer practice, and they stay. They take their kids to the grocery or farm supply store. Less kids need phones because their parents already know where they are, because they are together. Our kids are nearly always with us. If they aren’t with us, they are on the school bus or at school, or with a neighbor. They are not alone, wandering the streets.

YP or NP, or somewhere in between, what’s your preference?

Making it ours (Part 1-Taming of the Purple)

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When you buy a house, you often purchase it for its functionality, mostly ignoring the decor. We, on the other hand, purchased our home for the 33-acre habitat, mostly ignoring the house other than checking off 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a basement. The outside is nice enough, though we’re not fond of the yellow.

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The interior is extremely, um, colorful. We have a sunflower yellow laundry area, a forest green kitchen and breakfast area, pink/off white/cream living room and family room depending on the light, a spring/lime green bedroom, and various wallpaper, all paired with almost Kelly green carpet.

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The room that really bugged me most was the purple master bathroom. Don’t get me wrong, I like purple. It’s my favorite color! The shade of purple used in the bathroom was actually one of my wedding colors. It had to go.

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Anyone that knows us, understands that we are more into neutral tones–browns, mild greens, barely blues, and the like. I picked a lovely shade of white-blue called Wispy Cloud from Glidden (No, they didn’t pay me to tell you that), and commenced operation repaint bathroom, starting with the wallpaper border around the top of the walls. That was pretty easy and only took about 1.5 hours to take down.

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Armed with rollers, brushes, and 5 gallons of Kilz2, I started painting on the first day of the kids’ Spring Break. Yes, I started this project in March. I put layer after layer, after layer of Kilz on the walls. I tried the brushes, hoping for a thick coating. I tried the roller. It was still purple. After 2.5 days of Kilz, I felt defeated and abandoned the project for a trip to Texas. The bathroom has been in this condition ever since; lights detached, half purple, and reminding me that the walls had won.

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So, we decided that since we had plans to paint the entire house, we should invest in a paint sprayer. We ended up with this Wagner sprayer for all paint and stain types–versatile and a good deal (nope, not paid for that one either). It’s handy and we like it.

I will be changing the trim color, because the off white does not go with the bright white-blue color. And because there is over spray/brush on the trim, caulk, tile, cabinet, tub, and everywhere else, so there is still evidence of purple that I will need to remove.

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We also purchased 5 gallons of original Kilz, mostly by accident, which actually offered much better coverage than Kilz2. The paint went on in a shade of white, but seems to have “blued” over the last week. So while not fully completed, we have tamed the purple and are loving the results.

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I even found a couple of flowers for the pitcher that belonged to my great-grandmother. It’s been waiting for this home.

 

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Lessons we learned along the way:

1. You can/should include the kids if you don’t mind fixing something that looks like this after they get bored (be sure to put down a LOT of plastic):

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2. Original Kilz offers much better coverage than Kilz2, but you better put in some serious air circulation and ventilation. That stuff is strong! But it took one good coat with the sprayer and we were done.

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3. When the paint sprayer instructions say cover the entire room, it means it! We will be scraping floors, the mirror, the shower…

4. Quality of product is far more important when using a paint sprayer. We ran out of one bucket of Kilz and attempted to use another partial bucket that had been stored in extreme weather conditions, both hot and cold. Bad idea! We now have texture where it wasn’t previously, but I don’t mind it so much in here.

5. When using a new tool like a sprayer, always start in a room that is not likely to be seen by company. We also picked a room that we know we want to remodel in 5 or 6 years.

I think CAT is also extremely happy to have that project under our belts and “done” with a few exceptions. It means we can move on to the kitchen and getting the green carpet removed. Or we can get back to playing on the tractors and fishing.

~Mouse

And so it begins

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I’m Mouse. Yes, I go by that name in real life, even though it isn’t the one my mom and dad gave me at birth. My husband came up with that pet name for me some time ago, and it has stuck. Especially since his nickname is CAT. We have a 13-year-old boy that goes by Grasshopper, and an 8-year-old girl that goes by Cricket. No, those aren’t their given names.

We are the proud but sometimes weary owners of 33 acres of diverse land in the heart of America. Our property includes ponds, trees of so many types, a ridge, a field, and a river. This is our dream and we are so fortunate to live it, even when it exhausts us. This is our backyard. How can anyone hate this view?

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Great, right? So now you’re asking why on earth I would make time to write about it and why would I share it with the whole world. Easy, I love to write. I even write for a living; it’s just less creative and more technical. I have family from coast to coast in the U.S., a brother in Australia, a sister in England, and another brother in Norway. Inevitably, someone would get forgotten in the email distribution.

More than that, I have a semi-unique outlook having jumped from city living all my life to living in rural America, surrounded by towns of fewer than 10,000 residents. Many city dwellers wistfully pin pictures and collect idealized images of life in the country as picturesque and simple. I thought, ‘sure it can be any more challenging than keeping house in the city and keeping our hunting lease.’ Reality check! It’s tough work! But we have fun toys.

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We love it, and we want to share our perspectives with people in the same boat as us, with people that are thinking about jumping into this life, and with people that want to live this life vicariously. Our posts will include everything from home renovation adventures, building things, life with kids, maintaining the property, livestock and other farm animals, and so much more. It’s meant to capture life as we know it. We hope that you will enjoy our adventures and share some of your own with us in the comments.

~Mouse

Just Getting Started

Welcome to Urban Mouse, Rural House!

I’m just getting started, but I hope you will come back to see how our front yard went from this: Image

to this:

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I plan to include everything from learning the ropes through everyday life and adjusting from our city life to digging back in time as related to living rurally.

Please check back soon.

~Mouse