Bugs

How do you get sick when you haven’t come in contact with anyone for days?  This is what I asked the doctor at the urgent care after attempting to hack up a lung or two for a week.  He blamed it on the move…new bugs in Idaho to acclimate to.  Then he asked if I wanted antibiotics or to just tough it out another week.  I opted for drugs.  He also suggested I share the codeine cough syrup with Shawn so at least he might have a good night’s sleep.

Speaking of bugs, there are definitely new bugs in Idaho and a lot of them.  Since the temperatures have warmed up this last week, they are out in force.  The cats are enjoying the entertainment, but I wish they would kill a few more.

These beetles are everywhere and like to dive bomb you
Luckily this one was on the outside with all the wasps/yellow jackets
Not technically a bug, but this cropduster was flying by with all the other bugs

Yes, I was so bored while I was sick that I started taking pictures of bugs.  While I was loafing around inside, Shawn was busy outside.  The Frankenchicks were moved outside in the completed Chickshaw.  The beasts have quadrupled in size in the last two weeks.  He also built the chicken tractor.

Chickshaw with Frankenchicks
Chicken tractor

Shawn also finished clearing and preparing the garden space.  He covered the walkways between the beds with cardboard (we have a lot from the move) and wood shavings from the trees he has been trimming.  He direct sowed wheat, carrots, and radishes.  The other seedlings are still growing indoors.

The weather has been beautiful.  It seems like overnight we went from snow and hail to sunshine and 70’s.  Tomorrow is forecast to be in the low 80’s, but then it is back to the 50’s for the weekend.

A nice spot to hang out and read in the afternoon
The valley is turning green

Hopefully, I will be done with this cold soon and can get back to more DIY projects.  Those 27 doors are not going to paint themselves!

What I did while not getting anything done…

I figured out how to add an email sign up to the blog.  Add your email on the right and you will be notified when there is a new post.  I promise not to sell your email, and I doubt anyone is interested in stealing my vast mailing list of six.

Keeping Busy

It’s been a month since we retired and moved, and I can’t say we have found ourselves sitting around saying we’re bored.  Tired yes, but bored no.

Last week, I started painting the interior of the house.  Fresh paint makes me feel like everything is clean and relatively new.  We wanted to use a similar color scheme from our previous house.  Gray walls with white trim, but we were concerned the gray might be too dark.  I got paint samples in 6 shades of gray and we ended up selecting the lightest shade.  All our doors and windows are trimmed in stained wood, and I plan to paint that all white.  I counted and we have 27 doors and 21 windows.  If each door takes one coat of primer and two coats of paint, that is a lot of painting.  Time to research paint sprayers…

6 shades of gray
Starting on Shawn’s office in the basement

Shawn was busy finishing up the Chickshaw.  It now has wheels so it can be mobile as soon as the temperature outside is warm enough for the chicks.  As you can see, the Frankenchicks are still growing at an alarming rate and still ugly.

When we bought the house, the previous owners threw in their tractor in lieu of making some minor repairs.  There were some cryptic instructions on how to start the tractor involving a jury-rigged wire and button.  Shawn got the tractor to start once, then it began smoking and would not start again.  So how do you get your tractor that won’t start to the tractor mechanic?  Rent a trailer, winch the dead tractor onto the trailer (preferably when it is snowing), and then haul it into town.  Hopefully, the tractor will be back in a few days and ready to push, pull, lift, dig, gather, move and whatever else tractors are supposed to do.

We’ve had a few days of sunny weather, so we’ve spent some time outdoors clearing dead and unwanted trees and shrubbery.  While this is satisfying work, it makes more work because then we have to get rid of the debris.  Shawn has been working on the garden area the last couple days, and he’s using the chipped wood to make walkways between the beds.

It’s beginning to look like a garden
Trying to burn some of the greener debris
This rose bush had to go

One fun thing about moving into a new house in the winter is discovering what is growing in your yard.  As the days get warmer, new plants are popping up and beginning to flower while the trees are waking up.

I think these might be tulips
Corkscrew Willow

Black walnut

The cats have settled into life in Idaho.  There are lots of windows to look out of and plenty of sunny spots for sleeping.  So far they don’t seem to mind that they aren’t going outside.  Maybe they can smell the larger predators when the windows are open.

Shawn and I are both enjoying the time we now have to cook.  Shawn made a sourdough starter, and I have been on the receiving end of some wonderful sourdough pancakes and bread.  I’m still trying to perfect the whole chicken in the Instant Pot.  I also bought a $1.99 Kindle cast iron skillet cookbook and have tried a few recipes from it.

The Idaho sourdough starter
Sourdough pancakes
Sourdough wheat bread
Tamale Pie in the cast iron skillet

We have even taken a little time to explore Coeur d’Alene.  We went into town for dinner at the infamous Hudson’s Hamburgers, est. 1907.  They only serve hamburgers, ham sandwichs, egg sandwiches, and pie.  The hamburgers have the options of single, double, cheese, onions and pickles.  No lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, fries, etc.  A patron sitting at the counter asked if he could get another burger with extra cheese and the owner/fry cook said no.  The burgers and pie were tasty and cheap.

The sun had come out that day, so everyone flocked to the park in shorts and the restaurants had outdoor seating set up, but by 6 PM the clouds had rolled back in and it was getting cold.

A little art in public places

In an attempt to stay in touch with our technology roots, we attended a Fireside Chat put on by the local technology incubator Innovation Collective.  They interviewed a local restaurant owner on his career journey through dairy farmer, hospitality, health technology, and food service.  We met a nice couple from CDA that have some farm property in Washington.  They are avid growers of garlic, and Shawn looks forward to planting some cloves.

So as you can see, not a lot of time to sit around and get bored.

Staying Connected

When you live far enough away from town that you have to cart your trash to the dumpsters a couple miles down the highway and it’s almost a mile to your mailbox, communications technology can be a challenge.  So today, instead of the usual house projects and gratuitous pictures from my deck, I’ll be talking about communications tech.

Our top priority after buying the house was Internet connectivity.  There are a few options: satellite, fixed wireless, and cable.  The satellite company is Hughs.net which has terrible reviews; the cable is Frontier which I had in Elk Grove and despised; so that left Red Spectrum fixed wireless.  Here is the giant antenna attached beneath the deck.  It brings us 25 Mbps of happiness.

When we moved, we decided to break free from the landline and just use our cell phones (how millennial of us).  Unfortunately, there were only two spots in the house where we could make and receive calls.  Minor movements like sitting, standing, or breathing would drop a call.  The solution to this problem is a cell signal booster which entails a few pieces of equipment and some really fat cables (so much for wireless).  Now we can happily make calls from anywhere in the house and not worry about moving about too much.

Outdoor donor antenna
Amplifier – connects the donor antenna and the indoor broadcast antennas
This is not the indoor antenna’s permanent location. It will be mounted on a wall once we figure out the best spot.

Today’s addition to contraptions mounted under the deck is an HD TV antenna.  This is supposed to deliver us free HD TV channels such as the major networks and PBS.  So far, all we have are two PBS channels.  We need to do a bit more adjusting to get the antenna aligned with the broadcasting towers.  We have survived without TV for a month, so another day shouldn’t be too rough.

These next two pieces of technology aren’t communications related, but they are kind of cool.  You may have noticed the Litter-Robot in a previous post.  It happily sits in the laundry room and makes our life with cats that much sweeter.  Unlike our previous automated litter box, this one does not entail washing and drying plastic cat litter pellets and all the headaches that go with plumbing.  The Litter-Robot waits until the cat has exited and slowly spins to sift the clumps, dropping them into a concealed compartment.  Sophie likes to watch it like TV.

Since we are reflooring the whole house in vinyl, I decided to research robotic vacuums.  After tracking in all the lovely Idaho dirt all day, it will be nice to have the floors swept daily.  My bobSweep is on order, but I am looking forward to his arrival.

After all that technology, you probably want to see a calming, scenic photo or two, so who am I to deny your needs…

Morning
Afternoon
Morning
Afternoon
Morning

Ugly Chicks

Remember those cute little chicks I showed you a couple of weeks ago?  They are super ugly now, and let’s not even talk about the stink.  The Frankenchicks outgrew their half of the brooder in the basement, so Shawn moved them to the Chickshaw in the garage today.  Even though the Chickshaw is meant for the smaller, cuter, egg-layers, the meat birds will hang out there until Shawn builds their chicken tractor.

The future egg layers
Hey, Shawn got new glasses
The ugly chicks, a.k.a. Frankenchicks or dinner
The Chickshaw in the garage, just awaiting the addition of wheels
The Frankenchicks in the Chickshaw

Yesterday, Shawn the lumberjack did a bit of tree pruning around the workshop.  He eventually plans to remove two of the three trees that infringe on the building’s roof, but for now, he just did some trimming.  Under the trees, there is a wild rose bush that has sent runners about 16′ up into the branches.  Is it unreasonable to think about taking out a large life insurance policy on your husband when he goes all mountain man and starts one-handed chainsawing while on an extension ladder?  I think not.

I tried a little experimental baking with new ingredients.  Katie, from Millhorn Farmstead Creamery, had a recipe for Paleo Molasses Cookies on her blog so I thought I’d give it a try since molasses cookies are a favorite of ours.  I have not baked with almond and coconut flours before.  The coconut oil was interesting too.  It is hard and crumbly in the jar and had to be slightly warmed in the microwave (20 seconds) to soften it to a consistency of shortening.  The recipe said to chill the dough for 30 minutes before baking, but I don’t think that was long enough.  My first tray came out as one giant, flat mess.  The taste was OK, but you could definitely get a hint of coconut and the mealy feel of the almond flour.  The second batch burned, and the third batch, while not as runny, still did not look like the thick cookies pictured on the blog.  Not sure if I will try this again.

This might sound trite, but Idaho potatoes taste really good.  We’ve had them baked, and they are fluffy and sweet.  Tonight I tried a recipe for garlic mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot.  They turned out great and were a good accompaniment to Shawn’s smoked ribs.  I may have used 8 cloves of garlic instead of the two the recipe called for.

I was going to make a salad, but that just seemed like too much food

On our last trip into town (the vast metropolis of Coeur d’Alene, population 44k), we learned that you can’t buy hard alcohol at the grocery store.  It is only sold by the Idaho State Liquor Division in their stores.  So much for competitive pricing, but the salesperson did tell us that it is cheaper than liquor in Washington.  I think this may be the first thing we’ve found that is cheaper in California.

Still not tired of this view…

Panoramic right before sunset

Change is Hard…But Good

I feel like I’ve been unpacking for weeks.  Oh wait, I have been unpacking for weeks.  So why do I feel like it will never end?

I think I’ve finished with the kitchen boxes.  As I’ve mentioned, there is a lot less storage in our new kitchen.  Although I got rid of lots of stuff before we moved, the remainder still won’t fit.  I filled the cabinets with what I think is the must-have stuff, and everything else went back into well-labeled boxes to be stored in the garage.  My thought is: if I haven’t pulled it out of the box a year from now, then I probably don’t need it.

Storage in my old kitchen, and believe me there was stuff in every cabinet and drawer
I also had 6 huge cabinets and 12 drawers on the dining room wall
Now I have this much storage

After 23 years of having stuff in the same place, I thought it best if I labeled where I put things in the new kitchen.  I was thinking of removing the labels today, but Shawn said not quite yet.

The pantry is full, but the space can definitely be put to better use.  We will get around to that later.  A lot of the kitchen overflow ended up in the laundry room.

The shelves for food are a bit too far apart
Laundry room overflow

We’ve also been unpacking the closet boxes.  Once again, we purged prior to packing, but it still seems like we have too much.  I filled another bag for Goodwill because I know I will never wear some of my old clothes in Idaho.  I’ve been in jeans and sweats since I got here.  My go-to-town outfit is black jeans.

The closet can use some organizational upgrades, but that’s down the road

While I’ve been busily working in the house, Shawn has been busy in the workshop.  He is working on the “Chickshaw” ( yes, it is a rickshaw for chickens).  The Frankenchicks will live in it first since they are outgrowing their brooder, but the Chickshaw is for the pasture-raised egg layers so they can be moved around the property.

After a full day of unpacking, I sat on the couch and watched the weather through the picture windows.  It had rained all night and this morning, but it was sunny for a few minutes before the thunderclouds rolled in and we had rain, wind, hail, and lightning.

Farm Tour

When I look out our big picture windows, I can see a farm in the distance.  I told Shawn I need binoculars so I can see what’s going on over there.  So nosy!

Yesterday, Shawn made contact with a local farm via his Northern Idaho Facebook group.  He found a local dairy that sells raw, fresh, A2A2 milk which is not known to cause lactose intolerance.  The owner, Katie Millhorn, said she would give us a tour of their operation, so today we headed to the farm which turns out to be the farm I’ve been looking at out my windows.  Small world…or valley.

The view of our house from Katie’s farm

Katie showed us her barn where she hand milks 3 cows daily.  She also has sheep, chickens, and rabbits.  All are free range.  Milk is $6/gallon and cream is $7/quart.  We bought a gallon of milk, and Shawn enjoyed it with his AB&J sandwich for lunch.  I will try making yogurt with it in the Instant Pot.

Millhorn Farmstead Creamery

Free range chickens and lion head rabbits
Katie’s chicken coop
The milk is SO good!

So we are raising meat chickens.  We have 20+ Cornish Cross chicks growing at a rapid rate in our basement.  Katie referred to them as Franken-chicks because they grow so fast.  Shawn is busily working on their outdoor home, but it has come to my attention that one day we will need to process and package these beasts.  Gone will be the days of picking up a tray of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs at Safeway.  I need to figure out what to do with whole chickens.

Tonight, I am making a milk braised chicken in the Instant Pot.  Any recipe that calls for 10 cloves of garlic should be tasty.  Unfortunately, I did not have the lemon zest the recipe called for, so I zested a couple Cuties.  Tangerine garlic chicken?

The chicken was tender but could have used more browning. The leftovers will be either chicken corn chowder or chicken and dumplings.

A new addition to the kitchen is a stainless steel composting pot.  Since we are on septic and don’t have a garbage disposal, all the table scraps will go into the pot and Shawn will add them to his ever-growing compost pile.  Last night, Shawn asked if paper towels can be composted.  I looked it up online and it turns out that Bounty has an FAQ for that.

“Our paper towels and napkins are biodegradable. We measure the biodegradability of our products using a composting test developed by the US Composting Council. Under these conditions, Bounty will biodegrade in 60 days or less.”

K-cups waiting to be dismantled so coffee grounds can be composted

Now you know.

This Week on the Homestead

For people who don’t work, we’ve had a busy week.  Wednesday, we ventured into the garden.  The previous owners set up a fenced area with raised beds, but it looks like they did not tend to it for the last few years.  Everything is overgrown.  I found some grapevines on the fence and pruned them back.  I’m not sure they are even alive, so we will see what happens.  I’ve lived in California all my life, but I didn’t prune a grapevine until I moved to Idaho!

We were told that there are two Asian pear trees and two cherry trees.  We found what looked like a forest of we’re not sure what tress.  Shawn cut back the suckers.  There was also a stray pine tree in the garden that had to go.  It was about 3 feet tall, so that’s what tells us the garden hasn’t been tended in a while.

After we made a huge pile of debris, we planned to burn it on a windless day.  Instead, we invested in a chipper/shredder.  We did a little research online and decided on the Predator from Harbor Freight.  The little red thing is a beast and made our huge pile into some lovely mulch in a short time.  Shawn also had some fun playing lumberjack with the chainsaw.

The chicks and seedlings are thriving in the basement.  The Cornish Cross meat chickens have quadrupled in size and are getting to the ugly teenager stage.  A few of them look ready for stuffing to me.  They are getting a bit stinky, as teenagers do, so Shawn got the supplies to make their outdoor lodgings soon.

We laid more flooring yesterday, so now we have the kitchen, dining room, and our bedroom floored.  It was so nice to finally sleep in our king size bed last night.  Two cats and a 6’4″ husband don’t leave a lot of room in a queen size bed.

Last night was a blue moon.  It was so bright that when I woke up in the middle of the night I thought the sun was rising already.  Thankfully, I got to sleep a few more hours.

Today, we played with wiring.  We are changing out the outlets a few at a time.  The wiring was not done to Shawn’s standards, and he had a frustrating time figuring out what was going on.  Between the DIY projects, we continue to unpack…it may take years.