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Our Fair Field

Rehabbing Your Farm: Part 2

Renee headshot"The Goat Farm" in Tracy

We've been on three places in the last 10 years. How did this happen you might ask? Well, it's just the way it turned out.

First, we rented an acreage in Tracy, California. Then we worked as managers on a 1,000 acre cattle ranch in a remote part of Northern California. Finally, we bought our own acreage in the Central Valley of California.

Let's go back to the beginning. Let me tell you about Tracy. When we came to Tracy we had looked around for a place to rent for quite a while. The day we saw it we knew it was what we wanted. Luckily, we were able to prevail with the landlord and sign the lease that very day.

It was known by the locals as "The Goat Farm." This wasn't just a backyard with goats. There had been hundreds of goats that had lived there. We never did find out what they did with all those goats but the most likely thing was they were raised for meat.

In any case, the effects of having so many goats was immediately apparent. The place was overrun by gigantic, lush weeds because of all that great fertilizer. In the middle of one large field we found the remnants of the goat shelters. There was also a big pile of concrete in the second large enclosure that was used by the goats as a "mountain." Goats like to climb.

gate
The hay barn is on the right next to the blue grain storage.

The old wood hay barn was missing so much roof tin that there may as well have not been any roof at all. Inside there was a bunch of old rusted equipment, discarded bagged feed and moldy hay. Near the barn we uncovered one giant concrete water trough that was full to the top with baling twine.

Someone had un-baled the hay and just threw the old twine into the trough. "There! Good enough for government work!" In between the barns and the pens someone had laid concrete but it was cracked and buckling everywhere.

A large storage shed also missed half of its roof. We guessed it had seen better days has a milking shed or something to that effect. It had been a pretty nice shed back in the day, but now the floor was half-covered with bird poop.

Starlings had used the holes in the walls to build nests. When you went in there you heard a chorus of peeping from the baby birds. Black widow spiders lurked in every corner.

The horse stalls were in the best shape of all the out buildings but there were no runs. It was just three stalls in the middle of decrepit concrete driveways. The run fencing was long gone. But all we needed was a water delivery system and removal of all the spider webs and those structures would work.

The previous renters had kept chickens which they just gave us when we moved in. There were 12 hens and a large rooster. One of the hens had bumble foot. One had only one foot and all of them were scrawny and infested with lice.

They were living in squalor, poor things. The pen was a literal pig sty. The floor was muddy and the roosts were covered with poop. Just to make everything complete the roof also leaked.

chicken coop
Diatomaceous earth and straw on the right waiting for coop rehab efforts.

That was the state of the out buildings.

Our house was in pretty good shape. The roof didn't leak and the heat and air conditioning was functioning but there were no screens on the windows. Another problem was the walls were covered with dirt to about 3 feet high from the large dogs who lived inside with their owners. Mice droppings were everywhere.

house
Cute little ordinary house. Works for me!

It was hard to figure out what to do first. But on a farm or ranch animals come first. Obviously, the chickens needed help right away.

We covered the roof in tarp until we could build a permanent solution. We cleaned out all the poop and spread a thick layer of straw over the mud.

On top of that we spread diatomaceous earth to start the process of getting rid of the vermin. Then we gave them a real watering solution as well as feed. I started giving them a bit of hamburger every day for protein and a little scratch for weight gain as well as their regular lay pellets.

The chickens went crazy with joy. It really made my heart sing to see them so happy. Because I spoiled them so badly, eventually I could let them free range and when I called them, "Here, chick, chick, chick!" they would come running from all over the yard. They loved me and I loved them back. The little one-footed hen was my best layer.

pasture

Then we had to mow to find enough space to keep our horses. The horse pasture was in not too bad of shape and it had the added advantage of being able to be irrigated. It turned out that we had the privilege of using the irrigation water from the alfalfa field across the way. So we let the horses out there and rented a large industrial size mower for the rest and set about taking the weeds down.

The old goat enclosure was big. We decided to turn it into a riding arena. The second goat enclosure was also gigantic. This was the field that had the concrete goat jungle gym.

When we started mowing we found that there were the shelters in the weeds. We got the weeds taken down and were getting ready to disk when we discovered that there was a lot of metal in the form of rotten fencing materials and nails of every shape and size.

Marty had a metal detector so he swept while I picked. I wish I had a picture of all the metal we got out of that field. (P.S. the metal detector has turned out to be a really good investment. We have used it everywhere we've gone.)

We bought hog fencing and built an enclosure for the dogs. Our dogs are outside dogs and only come in when the weather is super bad.

charlie cat
Charlie Cat on his perch.

At night after the animals were taken care of we started in on the house. First sweeping and then vacuuming to get rid of dog hair and dander. Then scrubbing the walls to get rid of the dirt.

Every morning we would wake up to mouse droppings all over the counters. That precipitated "The Look." Every husband knows "The Look." He knows he is in for it. The little woman has plans and he can't wait to hear what they are.

In this instance the word is: "Exclusion!" A person can trap or poison rodents until the cows come home but mice have a tendency to reproduce like crazy so that method is a never ending battle. Even legions of cats can't keep up! The only way to keep rodents out of the house permanently is to exclude them.

I tried steel wool stuffed in under cabinets but only went so far and then you have to go to the lumber yard and buy enough hardware cloth to go around the exterior of the house at foundation level. Expandable foam fills in what holes that is not easily covered with the metal mesh. Remember mice can get in holes the size of a dime or smaller.

Anyway, with this technique voila! No more mice! Oh, happy day!

The next project was then to — little by little — add window screens to all the windows. Did I tell you there's nothing better than curtains blowing in the breeze? You can have that without window screens but then — in farm land — you also have house flies taking over. I give a big thumbs up to Marty who put in all the screens while I was commuting to my job in the Big City.

Other things we did: Finish off the tack barn. Start a straw bale garden to thwart the gophers. Re-roof the hay barn so we could store our hay in there. Add pipe corrals to the horse stalls so the horses could be there when sick or the weather was too bad.

This place turned out pretty nice. With all the fixes it really looked like home.

mist
The view from my kitchen window in the morning.


Photos property of Renee-Lucie Benoit.

Easy to Make Goat Cheese

Renee headshotGoat cheese, also known as "chevre," is a really easy cheese to make. The only cheese that is easier, in my opinion, is paneer cheese. To make paneer cheese all you do is add lemon to cow's milk for it to curdle and then you squish out the whey. You can use it right away. I make Sag Paneer, which is an Indian spinach and cheese dish.

I live in an area where there are a lot of back yard goats. I didn't want to keep any goats of my own because we're too busy fixing this place up as you already know! So when I made friends with a neighbor who keeps goats and she offered me fresh milk I jumped at the chance.

Here's how I make it. This recipe makes about a pound of cheese.

Supplies

  • Large stainless steel pot, heavy bottom is good, with lid or something to completely cover it.
  • Butter muslin or fine cheesecloth or a clean single layer of a clean pillowcase.
  • Large spoon for stirring, measuring cups and spoons, colander. (All stainless steel: these can be boiled to make sterile).
  • Cheese thermometer (I got mine from New England Cheese makers).
  • Optional: Chevre molds (I've never used them because they are a little expensive, but if you want little cylinder shapes they are great).

goat cheese ingredients
I made this at night so my photos are a little dark.

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts goat milk (can be pasteurized store bought. If you buy fresh milk make sure it is from a person who keeps everything REALLY clean).
  • 1/8 tsp MM100 (mesophilic) culture (Look online for this unless you know of a handy place. There's New England Cheese makers, for example. I get my culture at Mountain Garden Supply in Ben Lomond, CA).
  • 1/4 cup cool water.
  • 1 or 2 drops rennet (can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian type. Non-vegetarian is made from the lining of the 4th stomach of a new born calf. Some people object to that. Vegetarian is made from fermented soybeans).
  • Salt to taste.
  • Fresh or dried herbs to taste.

Method

  1. It's best to pasteurize this milk at a low temperature because it's going to sit on the counter for a few hours to culture. I do this so I don't worry about it going bad. Also doing this makes the cheese last longer in storage. Up to two weeks in the fridge. If you decide not to heat it make sure you keep everything clean. That's why I suggest all stainless steel equipment so it can be sterilized.
  2. heating up goat cheese

  3. Pour milk into pot and using your thermometer heat it to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. I am not so lucky as to have a gas stove, but if I keep a real close eye on the thermometer and when the electric coils start to get hot and the temperature is approaching 145 degrees I turn it down. Keep it at 145 degrees (5 degrees more or less) for 30 minutes.
  4. Cool milk to 80 degrees. To speed up the cooling process you can put the pot in cool water or even an ice bath.
  5. If a "skin" formed on the milk while it was heating just stir it in and then sprinkle the MM100 culture over the top of the milk. Let it re-hydrate for two minutes. Stir it in gently.
  6. Drop 1-2 drops of rennet in the 1/4 cup of cool water. Remove 2 tablespoons of the water and mix it into the cheese. Discard what remains of the water.
  7. Cover the pot and let it sit at room temperature for 8-12 hours. I make my cheese in the early evening. It cultures while I sleep. The longer it sits the drier it will eventually be.
  8. In the morning a soft curd will have formed if everything goes right. Like thin yogurt. There will also be clear whey on top. It will smell like tangy yogurt. Yum!
  9. goat cheese curds

  10. Drape the butter muslin over the colander which is set in a large bowl. Carefully decant the curdled milk into the center of the colander. The whey will drain into the bowl for other uses. Another trick is to gather up the bag by the corners and tie them. Then hang the bag from your cabinet doors over the catchment. Let a good deal of whey drain out and then lift up the corners of the muslin and tie around a stick which you can suspend between cabinet handles.
  11. If you've decided to use chevre molds carefully ladle the curds into each mold that are set over something to catch the whey.
  12. goat cheese draining

  13. Drain cheese for another 8-12 hours. Like I said before the longer you let it drain the drier it will be. If it is very hot out, I put it in the fridge after six hours or so. The curd is ready when the whey stops dripping. The cheese will be the consistency of cream cheese. If you want a "harder" soft cheese let the cheese age and further drip whey out in the fridge for a day or so.
  14. drained goat cheese

  15. Blend the salt in, about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon for a pound of cheese according to your taste. Start with a little, taste it, and blend in more if it's not enough. You can't take it out! It's fine not to use salt at all. I use herbs. It's up to you what tastes good to you. The resulting cheese will keep, covered in a glass container or packed in olive oil, for about a month in the refrigerator. It also freezes really well. Bon Appétit!

Author's Note: I'm taking a break from thinking about what it's like to renovate an old ranch. My neighbors gave me some fresh goat milk so I just have to make some goat cheese!

Photos property of Renee-Lucie Benoit.

A Fixer-Upper Farm

Renee headshotI remember the first time it hit me. I was standing on the back porch after a long day's work and all of a sudden reality set in. This is never going to end.

Let me pause here and say this is not going to be a doom and gloom story. There's reality, and then there's truth. Reality is what gets you in the day to day. Truth is what keeps you going to find the rainbow at the end of the storm. I have found my rainbow and let me tell you how I did it.

In 2016 we bought an acreage where we intended to keep our horses, have a household garden from which to feed ourselves, and for simple room to breathe. Some days I think all the work we have to do will do me in. It seems like just as I get one thing fixed another thing breaks.

Most days there are many, many things broken all at once and it's hard to figure out where to start. My farmer uncle from Illinois said, "Don't buy a place of your own unless you like fixing things," and he was right.

Who can afford to buy bare land and then build from the ground up? Most of us, and that's including me, have to buy something that someone else's grubby little paws have messed with (I'm laughing I hope you know!). If you're lucky whoever they were did it the right way but I'm here to testify that most of the time they don't!

Not only that but the current owner is very likely to be the 3rd or 4th in a succession of owners and never did know, for example, where the water lines were or where the electric lines to the barn, the arena or the yard lights are. They just always worked until they didn't so when you buy the place they're still broken!

Here's an example: when we managed a cattle ranch in Northern California prior to coming here we were shocked to see that how they fixed broken electric lines. Since they had no clue where the real lines were they just strung heavy duty extension cords!

Anyway, that was the predicament we found ourselves in three years ago when we bought our 2-1/2 acres in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley. Everything was in disrepair. But we knew that then and we accepted it.

We knew that the bones of the house and outbuildings were good and we got it at a fair price. Our plan was to put in a lot of sweat equity, sell it in about two years so we didn't have to pay taxes, and move up to something even better.

Two and a half years later...

I should have known. Everything that we have worked on has become more complicated than I thought or could have imagined. Nothing goes the way it is planned.

Some days we laugh. Other days we cry. We soldier on. This is our dream, after all. This is what we signed up for and we can't quit until we succeed.

So, like I said, we're currently half way through our "Two Year Renovation Plan," and it's been two and a half years. Marty keeps saying, "Next year when we finish...!" And I keep saying, "Yeah, right!"

Let's go back to the day we moved in. Just to keep it interesting, that very evening the well quit on us. Home warranty insurance took care of the majority of the cost to put in a new pump and we only had to go without water for a couple days.

Fortunately the livestock troughs had been topped off the day before the well broke and the weather was cool so the animals could make it. Good and auspicious start, don't you think?

Roofing and windows

OK, well fixed. Now what? Clearly the roof and windows had to be replaced. We had a 35 year old shake shingle roof and there was no way we were going to take a chance trying to make it through the winter. This was one thing we did not want to fix on our own.

We got a HERO loan so we could pay for it and then we got a window contractor who subcontracted to a roofer so we could get everything done at once. The windows were original single pane, metal builder grade and covered with dirty screens which made the interior of the house dark like a cavern. The hippie in me started singing, "Let the sunshine in!"

roof
A "before" picture of the windows and roof.

Fencing

So, while that was in the works, we turned our attention to our rotting infrastructure. Nearly all the fence posts and many rails were rotten and the only thing that kept them from falling apart was the no climb fencing wire.

However, we had to put our horses some place right away and could not afford to replace all the fencing at once. The first thing we did was put up hot wire inside all the horse pens to prevent the horses from pushing down the fences until we could get to a more permanent fix.

fences lake
One of the reasons why the posts were rotted is that they were inundated with water every spring.

Weeds

The next thing we did was rent the T1000 version of a "terminator" lawn mower to take care of the hip high weeds. Finally things were getting under control. When we were out and about we discovered ReStore for many of our materials (thank you, President Carter).

Garden

I did a sediment test to see what soil composition I had and it was mostly clay and sand with a little bit of loam. Then I sent another soil sample to a laboratory to discover all its other qualities.

When that returned, I found I had what I thought I had all along: very little organic matter and low calcium. So I added gypsum and put down heavy mulch in the area where I planned to plant next spring.

Then it started raining and we got almost nothing done all winter. It was a 100 year deluge.

future garden
My vegetable garden starts out nicely fenced but that's about it.

Some days it's exhilarating and other days it's overwhelming, but in the end it's satisfying. I can go to bed at night and sleep like a log satisfied in the knowledge that I have accomplished something even though the progress is glacial.

We have improved our land and by extension our planet. Even a little bit of progress is progress and that's what I remind myself. I am content.


Next chapter: Some details of renovating a broke-down ranch.

Photos property of Renee-Lucie Benoit.

Music to My Ears

Renee headshotEvery evening we get treated to the most wonderful music from the back of our acreage. If you don't already know, we have two and a half acres in the middle of the Central Valley of California.

The foundations for this music were created back in December when Marty accidentally left the water running to one of our horses water troughs. He let it go all night long! Can you believe it? I keep saying, "Put in those automatic floats!" He keeps procrastinating and for what I don't know!

So when we went out to feed the animals on that morning we found a big shallow lake spanning both horse pens. Marty! I'm glad we have a really good well!

It hadn't rained much up to that point and we weren't sure if it would rain at all, so I hoped that the "lakes" would evaporate or at least go back into the ground. Around here we have hardpan so going back into the ground takes a long, long, time.

Then it rained. And it rained some more. The lakes got bigger.

This month we have discovered the silver lining to that accident: Frog music!

Every night this is what we hear:

They are Sierra Tree Frogs. I think. Or they might be Baja Tree Frogs. I'm not a herpetologist and my internet research indicates the likelihood of the Sierra.

They are tiny and they definitely come out at dusk, but once in a while I have seen them during the day. I saw one in a rose bush yesterday. I think that one was lost. My rose bushes are nowhere near the lakes.

frog toad
I found one in the breezeway of our horse barn. Frog? Toad?

This is the greatest harbinger of spring I can think of. Now we have cattle egrets in our lakes from time to time and even a pair of mallards. They are looking for a froggy meal. There are also wading birds, which I can't identify.

I wish Marty hadn't let the water run but since there's nothing I can do about it now I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the Evening Chorus!

Photo and video property of Renee-Lucie Benoit.

An Old Schoolhouse

Renee headshotWay off in a large field of scrubby bushes a herd of pronghorn antelope are grazing. One looks up suddenly at the sound of children playing. It's a rag tag bunch of boys with bowl cut hair and girls in pigtails. Some are very young and some are almost teenagers.

There's a woman standing on the porch ringing a bell for the children to come in. Her hair is pulled back in a severe bun and her wire rimmed spectacles sit on her nose. Her prim white blouse is buttoned up to her chin and her feet are clad in sensible shoes. She has a kindly but stern countenance.

Ding dong! It's time for school!

school house
The old Berenda school house. Berenda is the anglicized version of "verrendo" which is Spanish for pronghorn of which many were found in the area .

Such was the image that conjured up in my mind as we stood before the old Berenda School just north of Madera in the middle of California's Central Valley. It was a cold and rainy day but we had gotten a break in the weather. The green grass bespoke of a kinder, gentler time. Soon all the grass would be dried up and the summer heat of the Central Valley would be oppressive.

How did these people do it? Furnace heat and air conditioning wasn't even a glimmer in an inventor's mind. Heat came from a wood stove in the middle of the room. On a cold rainy day would the teacher rotate the kids, in back of the room freezing to the front of the room where they were roasting? Or did she let them all gather round the stove?

Imagine the community of a one or two room school. You certainly knew everyone. Did everyone treat you with respect? Were there bullies and if there were how was the victim expected to react?

What did the children bring to eat? It had to be something that would travel well and not go bad before it was eaten. There were iceboxes but did the school have that luxury? Did the children get to bathe on a regular basis? Did they have to endure a bit or a lot of body odor from each other? Hopefully lice was not a big problem but if it was what was the remedy?

What kind of things did they learn? How did they use what they learned in life? Did they have "attitude" or did they knuckle-down?

school house
The row of lilacs stands as testimony to happy times.

The school, as I learned, was not just a place of learning. Sometimes it was a place where church services, Christmas parties, hoe-downs, community suppers, lectures, and spelling bees were held.

In the beginning school attendance was voluntary and varied from day to day depending on the weather and need for labor at home. Often children were sent to school before the age of six not only to get them out of the house, but because it was thought that school was a better place for children.

The school had both male (schoolmaster) and female (schoolmarm) teachers. It was the rule that if a female teacher married, she had to quit teaching because her most important job then became taking care of the household for her husband.

Many country schools were ungraded and in the beginning Berenda school was not an exception. Students were seated according to their level of ability. The youngest students sat in front and older ones in the back. Students were promoted to the next level when the teacher believed they were ready. Also children were exposed to lessons many times. Therefore, the younger children would know the lesson well when it came time for them to study it. Older students would sometimes help the younger ones.

Reading, good penmanship, and arithmetic, were stressed more than the other subjects. These subjects were known as the "Three R's" — Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic. By adding recitation, an important element of the reading lesson, teachers would sometimes call it the "Four R's". Because books and paper were scarce, much memorization and oral drilling took place. Students would learn by "'Rote," which meant to memorize and recite. To "cipher" was to do arithmetic problems, either orally or on slate boards. To "parse sentences" was to explain the meaning and function of each word in a sentence.


From the diary of Mrs. Woods:

School is where my Aunt Mary's memories began, a memory of the older kids going to the school and leaving her at home:

"I cried because I missed the older kids so much, so Mom would let me visit school with them. I was so thin. Mom put *pluma mooss in a jar for my lunch, and somehow it dropped and broke and I was brokenhearted. It happened in a sort of sandy creek, and the older kids helped me cover it up so no one would know."

*Pluma Mooss — A sweet, cold, pudding-like soup made from dried fruit.

From the diary of Jacob "Jack" Willems:

"As a little boy, second or third grade, I stayed back one year and the next year was put back. I was so embarrassed I would just freeze up when they talked to me. Nothing went in and nothing came out but Miss Garbedian, she was an Armenian, and she was a sweetheart, and she stayed with Pete Walls, had a room there, and she would teach and she could sing pretty good."

"And I could sing like the dickens. We had an annual play, and I was Jack Frost. I had little shorts on: 'I'm Jack Frost as you can see. I make the cold wind blow. I cover all the hills and dales with a lot of frosty snow.'"

"I sang that song as a solo, then the next year they wanted me again! And I had to play cupid. And I had these little wings and stuff like that, and a little wooden sword. 'Cupid then will teach you. You'll understand, oh, you shall understand.' I still remember that."

school house

As it sometimes happens the proximity to a convenient supply of customers dried up when the railroad was built and bypassed Berenda. The town disappeared as the people went elsewhere. But the school building still stands to remind us of what went before. Here's the monument the good folks of E Clampus Vitus put up.

Information courtesy of the California History Room at the Madera County Library. Images courtesy of Renée Benoit.

Homesteading: Hard and Rewarding

Renee headshot 

"I love to garden." "I would like to build my own house." "I want to be my own boss." "I want to be self-reliant."  "I want some peace and quiet." "I love animals." "I think chickens are neat." "I would love to have milk from my own cow or goat." "I want to live far away from the city." " I'd love to have a home heated by a wood stove." "I want to get healthy and have more fresh air and exercise."

If you've made any of these statements or given any of these as reasons, you would be very much like me. These are all reasons for why I wanted to have my own place.

Now that I am two years into it I say,  "Be careful what you ask for!"

Before you take the plunge perhaps it might be wise to talk to some honest homesteaders who will tell you what it really takes to have your own place. Make sure they are honest with you!

The number one thing I was shocked over was how much work goes into your own place. If you owned your own home in the city with an average-size lot you would know a little bit about maintenance. Now take that and multiply it exponentially. Unless you're just out of your teens I would counsel you to not even think about taking on an acreage unless you had the means to purchase or rent mechanical assistance!

We came here with a push mower, a pile of hand tools, a truck, and a horse trailer. Now we have a self-propelled walk-behind mower and a riding mower,  a tractor and a back hoe, a flat bed trailer, a log splitter, three chainsaws and all manner of smaller mechanical devices. I'll probably think of some more while I'm writing this. We are both 66 years old and it's hard on a body without mechanical assistance!

If you think you will get more exercise it won't be the kind you expected. On a homestead you will be required to do heavy lifting (hay bales, feed sacks and digging). You won't be getting much aerobic exercise unless you're running away from the bull and then it will only last until you get to the fence! Out in the country every time you need something or go somewhere you get in the truck. I actually got more exercise when I lived in the city. It just wasn't the peaceful and quiet kind.

Here are a few things we've had to deal with over the last few weeks:

Repairing the barn roof. We had a big wind storm that knocked some tin off the hay barn. We probably should tear the barn down and sell it for recycled barn wood and build a smaller, more efficient but less picturesque barn.

fix roof

Painting the house inside and out.  We finally broke down and bought an airless sprayer for under the eaves. It was simply taking too long and was too hard on our poor bones to do it manually.

Learning how to tile the bathroom floor and then doing it. Fifty square feet of floor took us three weeks to accomplish. We might have been able to do it faster but other projects came up and got in the way.

Repairing a stretch of rotted fencing posts.  A hot wire kept it going long enough so we could finally get to it and kept the horses from breaking it down.

The truck started acting up. Thank God for the dash board plug in computer diagnostic tool and for Marty's skill with fixing mechanical things!

Getting my onion seedlings in the mail. That created a rush to prepare the garden beds, including a last-minute decision to buy 1 1/2 yards of garden soil. I was tired beyond belief of trying to amend the clay/sand soil so anything would grow bigger than a golf ball. This required a road trip to get said soil and take a half day to unload and spread it.

Since it's been cold at night, down in the low 50s, we are still processing wood for the wood stove. Thankfully we were ahead of the game with lots of stockpiled firewood. We just didn't foresee how much we'd use. That meant a trip out to the orchard to get a half cord to make sure we make it through.

Then there's the daily stuff. Laundry, food preparation, and feeding the animals. This brings me to the subject of house cleaning.  I once heard an old friend say "It's a ranch house. Don't worry about it." She was letting someone off the hook for walking into the house with their dirty barn shoes on. House cleaning will be the last thing on your to do-list. You will find that the minute you finish cleaning, someone will track more dirt in. The house stays clean for about 15 minutes. Tops. I say: Only clean when you absolutely can't stand it anymore.

There are other things that can be a big shock. It's one thing to have your own place in the city with your water delivered to you with a turn of the faucet. Your heating and cooling, too. All courtesy of the public utilities company. You might have an old boiler in your basement or a rusty old air conditioner/furnace unit out back or on top, but if you rely on wood heat you'll be sourcing or processing a lot of wood. This is where a skilled ability to handle a chainsaw and log splitter will come in handy. Otherwise you're dependent on buying it all. And if you don't have a registered permit to burn you might not be allowed to burn except on certain days. Just sayin'.

Do I have any regrets? Maybe a couple. Overall it has been worth it. If you ask me would I do it again, knowing what I've learned? Absolutely, yes. And I would certainly do it much better if I had a do-over. Here's the main take-away: it's work! And time! Homesteading is not for the lazy. If you're industrious I say go for it! 

There’s No Need for Language!

Renee headshot 

Marty and I were making the bed the other day. Some people say that people who make their bed right when they get up are more likely to be successful. I don’t know about that but in the middle of making it here comes, completely out of nowhere, a word from my childhood on the Iowa farm. I said “Oh, the sheets are all whopperjawed. Let me fix ‘em right.”

That got me obsessing about all the weird words from my childhood. It all began with my German gramma who would exclaim “immer etwas!” (always something!) every once in a while when things were getting out of control. Here are a few words that I could remember.

Hornswoggle — bamboozle, as in “I think we was hornswoggled by the Fuller Brush man.”

Cattywampus or catty-corner, or kitty-corner — opposite each other on a diagonal. Research has revealed that this is the mispronunciation of the French word “quatre” (caught-tra) to indicate the four dots on a dice that suggests two diagonal lines.  As in, “Jack’s grocery is catty corner to the bank.”

Bumfuzzle — confuse; perplex; fluster, as in "Billy Joe can bumfuzzle anyone."

Clod-hoppers — large, heavy shoes worn by farmers

Dern tootin’ — an expression of agreement, as in, Sam and Opie are at the café counter. To the cook Sam says “Louella, you make the finest biscuits this side of the Mississippi.” Opie agrees, “Dern tootin’!”

Fixin’ to — getting ready to, as in, “I’m fixin’ to go to the Fairway meat counter. Y’all need anything?”

Granny-slappin’ good — very good, usually delicious, as in “Her apple pie is granny-slappin’ good!”

Gussied up — cleaned up and dressed very nicely, as in “Yore all gussied up. Where ya goin’?”

Hankerin’ — a craving for, as in “I have a hankerin’ for chicken fried steak.”

Hit with the ugly stick, drive a fly off a gut wagon, fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down — what you say if someone is unattractive to you.

Druthers — preference, as in “What’s yer druthers?”

Knee-high to a grasshopper — very small, as in, “The last time I saw you, you was knee-high to a grasshopper!”

Lick — no amount at all, as in “Billy Joe didn’t have a lick of sense.”

Mash — to press, as in “Mash that green button and turn on the TV.”

On-ry — difficult to deal with, as in “My horse gets on-ry sometimes.”

Piddlin’ — a small amount, as in “He jist has a piddlin’ amount of intelligence.”

Reckon — suppose, guess, as in, “I reckon we’ll see you at church.”

Language — to swear, as in “there ain’t no need for language.”

Skedaddle — to leave in a hurry, as in “Let’s skedaddle.”

Stove-up — broken/destroyed, as in, “I’m all stove up from workin’ in the field.”

Tore up — broken/destroyed, as in, “That orange flower smell ‘bout tore me up.”

Usedta could — used to be able to, as in, “I can’t touch my toes any more, but I usedta could.”

 “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” — an expression of surprise or disbelief

Pie hole — mouth, as in “Shut yer pie hole!”

Whopperjawed — out of place/crooked, “The sheets is all whopperjawed. Lemme fix ‘em”

What are your unique country sayings?

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