Six Months Later

It has been six months since we retired and moved to Idaho, and what a busy six months it has been!  I think we’ve accomplished a lot both inside and out.

Inside

  • Unpacked (mostly)
  • Removed tons of nasty carpet and wood flooring
  • Laid over 2,000 sq ft of new flooring
  • Installed new kitchen appliances
  • Replaced toilets
  • Painted about 70% of the walls, 16 of 27 doors, and 14 of 21 windows
  • Replaced numerous outlets and switches
  • Removed and replaced baseboards (in progress)
Living room before
Living room after (still needs to be painted)
Master bedroom before
Master bedroom after
Sewing room before
Sewing room after

Outside

  • Revitalized the old garden
  • Fenced and cultivated a new garden
  • Returned the old tractor to a working state
  • Felled numerous trees and trimmed others
  • Supplied power to the workshop
  • Built a chicken tractor and a chickshaw
  • Raised and processed 50+ meat chickens
  • Raised 9 laying hens and 2 roosters (we’re getting 8 eggs/day now)
  • Raised 2 pigs
  • Harvested cherries, plums, apples, cherry tomatoes, Armenian cucumbers, beets, carrots, onions, wheat
  • Canned cherries, plums, peaches, beans, chicken
  • Dehydrated cherries, plums, tomatoes, apples
Old garden before
Old garden after
New fenced garden
Meat chickens (Frankenchicks) before
Meat chickens after
Pigs in June
Pigs in September
Fresh eggs are a daily occurrence
Two of the many trees Shawn has dropped
Kootenai Electric installing the new transformer
Trenches and wire for power to the workshop

Our new lifestyle, location, and DIY projects also required the acquisition of a few new tools:

  • Snow shovel
  • Farm boots
  • Numerous pairs of work gloves
  • Loader, boom, chain harrow, and disk for tractor
  • Chainsaw
  • Chipper/shredder
  • Cultivator
  • T-post driver and puller
  • Oscillating multi-tool
  • Floor scraper (ultimate tool for removing staples in carpet pad)
  • Generator
  • Paint sprayer
  • Pressure canner
  • Dehydrator
  • Cherry pitter
  • Paper log maker
  • “No Hunting” signs
Posting our No Hunting signs along the edge of the property

The last six months have flown by, and we’re starting to get into a groove.  If the weather is good, we will work on an outside project.  Not so good, then we’ll do an inside project.  We’ve also taken the time to explore our new surroundings with a few hikes and camping trips.  We’ve taken up flyfishing (that’s a whole new list of equipment for another post), and visited many of our local breweries, restaurants and farmers’ markets.  Life is good.

Farmer Shawn Grows Wheat

We are surrounded by wheat fields, so we know wheat grows well in our area.   In early spring, Shawn planted a pound of wheat seeds in a row in our garden.  For the longest time, it was the only crop in the garden that seemed to be growing.

The green row in the center of the garden is the wheat

The wheat dwarfs all the other plants

By midsummer, the wheat was over two feet tall while the tomatoes and peppers were still taking their time to get their groove on.

This wheat thing is new to us, so once the wheat turned brown and the farmers around us began cutting their wheat and hay, Shawn knew it was time to harvest.  He cut all the wheat by hand and hung it in the garage to finish drying.

I don’t know if it’s a bushel, but this is our full crop for the year

Shawn did some internet research and learned how to build a DIY thresher.  It is pieces of chain attached to a rod in a bucket.  He uses his drill to turn the rod, and the chain beats all heck out of the wheat to separate the chaff from the wheat.

We cut the wheat heads off the stalks by hand.  I’m thinking the Amish are more automated than we were.  It took a few hours for both of us to remove all the seed heads.  The chickens were happy with any we missed.

Ready to thresh
Threshing
Threshed

The final step was pouring the threshed wheat in front of a fan to separate the seeds from the chaff.  The heavier wheat falls into the bucket and the chaff blows away.  Shawn did this process a few times.  The resulting product was over six pounds of wheat ready for milling into flour.

Shawn plans to plant an acre of wheat for next season, so we will need to work on our automation techniques!

There is So Much to Watch

Shawn and I were just sitting out on the deck.  It was 79 degrees, overcast and still.  We were chatting about his day at pig butchery class and watching the chickens.  Chickens are almost as soothing to watch as fish in an aquarium.  We have a chickquarium.  A couple of male turkeys wandered into the yard and started puffing up because there was a female nearby.  A few minutes later, she walked into the yard and started eating the leftover chicken food.

Across the valley, we could see the clouds and rain rolling in.  The lightning started and the thunder indicated it was about 10 miles away.  Within a few minutes, the wind picked up, the trees were whistling, and the temperature dropped so we headed in.

Rapidly changing weather conditions

The weather station indicated the wind gust was 25 mph and the temperature had dropped to 60.  Inside, I heard a loud crash.  Remember that scenic picture a few posts ago with the picnic table and umbrella on the deck?  We had cranked the umbrella down, but obviously, that was not enough.  It snapped in two and went over the deck.  A leg broke off the picnic table.

Last week, Shawn started mowing the lawn.  Well, it’s not really the lawn.  It is the lower section of the parcel that is covered with knapweed.  It looks like the previous owner had let that section go for at least a year.  As Shawn mowed with the bush-hog, the land turned from grayish to green.

I found more flowers to take pictures of.  Sure, some of them are weeds, but they are still pretty.

I read that if you pick enough dandelions you can make wine
I think this may be a volunteer apple tree
Ornamental weeping cherry blossoms

One morning I was standing on the deck when a large bug flew in and landed on the railing.  Before my eyes, it shed its wings.  It was a huge flying black ant.  They are all over this week.  I hope they are gone soon or at least quit flying.

I’ve been busy painting.  The office and guest room are now a lovely shade of gray with white trim.  We also floored the office.  We have gone through almost 2,000 square feet of flooring and 4 gallons of paint and primer.  I did a bit of research and selected a Graco variable speed paint sprayer.  Shawn built a spray booth in the garage, and I can put two coats of paint on a couple doors each day.  Much easier than painting with a brush!

Guest room
Office
New paint sprayer…if it’s not nailed down, I may paint it
Spray booth
Outfit of the day #OOTD
High tech protective cover for the iPad (my boombox while working on projects)
This edge painter is awesome! No taping!!!

Saturday we ventured into town for a flyfishing lesson at Cabela’s in Post Falls.  There were four men and five women in the class, ages 8-70ish.  This is a sport for everyone.  I’m just looking for excuses to stand around in scenic rivers.

Cabela’s parking lot, not a scenic river

Going to town is a big deal for us.  CDA is only 20 miles away, but we try to cram as much into one trip as possible.  We left the house at 8:15 AM, had our flyfishing lesson until noon, went to the Post Falls brewery for a beer, went to the White House Grill for lunch, got a car wash, went to the bank, bought a chest freezer at Lowe’s for all the pork and chicken Shawn is processing, and went grocery shopping at Safeway.  We got home about 6:00 PM.

Black IPA
Spiced lamb patties with garlic green beans, the best thing I’ve eaten in Idaho

Shawn set up a temporary rig for the HDTV antenna, and I watched the news for the first time in 7 weeks.   The local weatherman told me what I was watching out my windows.  Thunder, lightning, and rain.

Chuck was not concerned with the wild weather conditions

 

Welcome to May

I woke up Monday and finally felt better.  I wasted a third of my retirement (thus far) being sick and missed out on the best weather (thus far).  So back to projects.  We finished the flooring in the living room.  We had been holding off because we wanted to remove the gargantuan gas fireplace, but we decided we’d just keep it for now and put the TV on top of it.  Our sectional is no longer in sections and it’s beginning to look like a regular house.

The humongous fireplace, we still need to trim around the bottom
Not necessarily the final furniture placement, but so nice to have a sitting area

Feeling better, I ventured into town to get my car registered and do a little shopping.  The DMV waiting room was packed (about 30 people in line for 7 windows).  It seems they have recently installed a computer kiosk for sign in and opinions are very divided on its functionality.  I was standing next to the kiosk waiting for my number to be called and everyone that used it felt compelled to vocalize their feelings about it.  The younger patrons thought it was pretty convenient to enter a cell phone number and get automated text updates on the wait time.  The more mature crowd was not so convinced and wished for the days of paper tickets which it still produced if you did not enter a phone number, but most of them got frustrated and walked away before getting their ticket.  People were very nice about helping each other, and the DMV clerks were extremely friendly and helpful.  The coolest part is that after you finish your paperwork and pay, they just hand you a set of plates.  No wait, the coolest part is the price.  I paid $190 for two years registration and a state parks pass!

Rocking my “Famous Potatoes” plates, and look how clean my side of the garage is!

Shawn got his tractor back from the shop and finally got to play, I mean work,  with it while the sun was shining.  Monday it rained, and I came home to find him stuck in the mud.  Lucky for him my phone was dead, so no incriminating pictures.  With a bit of work, he managed to pull the tractor out of the muck by winching it to a tree.

The vastness of our land
Trying out the rake attachment
Discing more garden space

The chickens all moved into their outdoor homes.  Shawn moved the Frankenchicks into the chicken tractor and the egg-layers into the Chickshaw.  The layers get to run around the pen during the day, but the Frankedchicks just stay in their tractor eating and growing fatter.  It was pretty funny watching Shawn try to get the layers back in their house for the night.

Setting up for the big chicken move
Frankenchicks gorging themselves on feed
Hens and roosters
Captured!
Barred Rocks and Golden Comets for egg laying
Roosting
Freedom…sort of

The daffodils and grape hyacinth are in full bloom.  I think there are at least four different varieties of daffodils.  There are also a few red flowers that we have not identified.

Unidentified red flower…hope it’s not poisonous Shawn

It’s so pretty it makes you want to come visit, right?  Tom and Bambi are frequent visitors.

Tom
Bambi

Check out Shawn’s YouTube channel, Spring Creek Acres,  for his latest videos.

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.

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.

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.

Today’s Weather Forecast: Everything

Today’s blog is all about weather. We woke up to a beautiful, clear, sunny morning. We drove into Coeur d’Alene for breakfast, and it was cloudy and overcast. We’ve noticed a few times that when it is sunny at our place it is dismal in CDA. We checked out the touristy area of CDA. Lots of ritzy shops and restaurants. Then it was off to Home Depot because we can’t go there often enough. Among other things, Shawn was in search of hardware to mount my new weather station.


Fancy coffees in real mugs at Eat More Bread Bakery on the Lake

Yes, I have a weather station. For some reason, I am fascinated by the weather and have always been a diligent follower of the weather report on the news. I have at least five weather apps on my phone and tablet. My latest weather find is Weather Underground which lets me track specific weather stations. This is also where I learned I could get my own personal weather station and report my data back to Weather Underground. There are so many choices when it comes to weather stations, but I decided to start with an entry level station by Acurite for under $200. One day I might advance to the next level and start tracking lightning and soil temps. My model will track temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, dew point, and rain.

The National Weather Service suggests a height of 33′ for the weather station for optimal readings, and Shawn managed to rig a 3-piece metal pole to get mine up to 28′. It looks pretty impressive way up there.

The weather today was a bit of everything. We had sun, clouds, hail, snow, wind, and back to sun all within a few hours. We’re told if you don’t like the weather wait 15 minutes and it will change. That was definitely the theme today.


Overcast

HailSnow
Sunny

Who Said Retirement is Relaxing?

We have been so busy the last few days, that by the end of the day I’m too tired to blog.

Tuesday through Thursday we tore up wood flooring, and Friday we finally got to start laying the new flooring in the kitchen and living room. This vinyl plank flooring is pretty neat. We rolled out pressure sensitive adhesive around the perimeter of the room. Once it was set, we started laying the planks. They aren’t tongue and groove or click together, so you plop them down and abut to the previous row. The most time consuming part of the process is cutting the funky pieces, but you can use a box cutter for the straight cuts and we used the awesome new oscillating multi-tool for the trickier cuts. I say we, but Shawn did all the cutting. My job was laying the full pieces. It took us about 5 hours to get the kitchen and dining area done. We still have lots to go since we intend on putting it throughout the house, but it is so nice to have a few rooms done, and it is so much quieter than the bare plywood. Our knees are toast.

While we were waiting for the glue to set, we took the opportunity to explore our new acreage. Friday morning was clear and sunny, so it was a great day for a walk. We were trying to figure out the boundaries of our property which is not as easy as one would think. The house sits at an angle on the lot, so the corners of the lot are hard to figure out. The previous owner marked one of the back corners, but we could not find the other back corner. The back half of the property is wooded and the front half is grassy. A seasonal creek runs through it. We saw many fresh signs of deer.

We had a quick chat with our driveway neighbor. He gave us the rundown on the other neighbors. Below us are the “hippies”; they grow plants under grow lights. To the west is a retired Costco butcher. Shawn is pretty excited about meeting him. Across the road is a gunsmith; quality of work unknown. We were also warned about the guy down the road that likes to get into everyone’s business. He was described as “drives a Toyota Tundra, smokes small cigars, is a self-proclaimed expert at everything, and has about five teeth.”

Today, our last POD arrived so we spent the day getting it unloaded. As with the previous PODs, the unloading commenced in the snow. We woke up to a few inches of snow on the deck and ground, but by afternoon the sun was out again and almost all of the snow had melted. I was so happy to have my washer and dryer setup. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea where the laundry detergent is. I think that will be the story of our lives for the next few weeks as we begin to unpack.

Tonight, after another long day of physical labor, we sat in a couple sections of our sectional sofa facing the windows and enjoyed the spectacular view and sunset.

MorningAfternoon

The Chicks Have Arrived

Another full day of demolition as we continued tearing out wood flooring. The kitchen is done with the exception of the flooring under the island. The goal for tomorrow is to lift the island and put it on furniture dollies so we can spin it and remove the remaining wood. I got to use a few new fun tools today. The flooring goes underneath the kitchen cabinets, so I had to cut the wood floor along the cabinet base with an oscillating multi-tool (saw). There are a bazillion nails in the floor, so Shawn gave me a nifty long-handled magnet to pick them up with. I also got to use crowbars, hammers, and various protective gear.

Time to buy a new dishwasher

#OOD – Outfit of the Day

Chuck Norris, the fraidy cat, hiding under the bed during demolition
Chuck Norris, the fraidy cat, hiding under the bed during demolition

Shawn went out to Tractor Supply in the afternoon to check out the new batch of chicks. He came home with six ISA Brown chicks for egg laying and 25 Cornish Rock Cross chicks for meat. They are pretty darn cute now, but luckily they won’t be so cute when it comes time to eat them. Sophie, the cat, thought they were rather tasty looking.


Chicks warming under the red light

While Shawn was out cruising chicks, I took the opportunity to do a little quilt photography with my awesome new backdrop.

Today we had all the weather: sun, a few snowflakes, clouds, rain and a breeze. The Crocus still knows today is Spring though.

After a full day of work, we figured we deserved a little happy hour beverage from the Growler Guys. Shawn picked up a few Crowlers of beer and cider. The One Tree Lemon Basil cider was very refreshing.