Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving on the Range

[You are probably wondering about the date of this post - or not. If you are, I started this post last Sunday on our drive home from Indiana. I finished it minus the pictures. I planned on uploading the pictures when we got home. We came home to our internet and tv not working. Long story short, it took until Thursday to finally get it all working again. SO - pretend you are reading this as if it were last Sunday...]

Ever since my dad has officially set his retirement date, he has continually referred to his farm/"work"after retirement as "Freedom Range LLC". Freedom is the name of the town the farm house is located. I thought it was a joke and assumed that he probably would have his farm running like a well-oiled machine. When Stephen and I were helping my parents move some boxes down to the basement, however, I saw this book that looked like an album. Being the nosy person I am, I opened it to see what was inside. Instead of finding pictures, it was a book of checks labeled "Freedom Range LLC". My dad was surprised I didn't think it was real. He had started the business in 2002 when Perry and his family moved into their farm house. Perry's family had horses that stayed on the property. The business began, so they couldn't sue my dad if a horse got hurt. Seems a little extreme, but he was covering his bases, if you will. Now the business is for his cattle breeding. He wants to be able to sell his cattle or their beef to local eateries. He is breeding his cattle to be the most self-sufficient animals to raise. This is his marketing scheme. He claims that as long as they have grass/hay, water, and some salt - they can survive.

To help his business, he bought a hay mower that attaches to a tractor. Stephen and I had the privilege of picking up the piece of machinery for my dad in Munfordville, KY. Stephen had some time off last week, so he went to Lexington to help his parents get ready for Christmas and all the family coming in town. Tuesday, on his way back to Nashville, he picked up the mower. Then, we headed up to Indiana that night.

The Hay Mower

My dad paid us for gas from the company account. It is pretty official, people.

On Wednesday, and every day thereafter for that matter, we went out to see the pets, I mean... the cattle. To get them to come close, my dad brought out some hay. Jud, the calf, is pretty timid. His momma, Judy, is very protective. When my dad laid the hay on the ground, the cows came to eat. Jud, who is still nursing, wanted to be like his momma and pretended to eat the hay as well.


It rained all day and was very cold. We saw the cows go into the barn when we were about to eat lunch. My dad wanted to make sure they had plenty of hay, so we went out to the barn. My dad gave them hay and sweet feed, which they love. While, the cow and bull were eating the sweet feed, the calf ran out of the barn. Within seconds, the momma ripped her head out of the stall and ran out of the barn after her baby. We were shocked. We didn't even notice the calf leave. At first, we had no idea why the cow had left. Judy's (the momma) head was in a stall eating, so the calf was out of her sight. Animal instincts are incredible.

Yesterday my sister and I went out to see them one more time. The cows were in the barn, so I gave them sweet feed. My dad stopped in a few hours later and gave them sweet feed too. Oops! They aren't spoiled or anything. When we give the cows food, we say "sue cow" , so they know we are feeding them. We are attached - it's bad!

The remaining of Wednesday, I helped my mom make food for Thanksgiving and Stephen helped my dad move a few boxes. My parents have moved all their things to Indiana. They lack a couple of computers and some clothes. Otherwise their house in New Jersey is completely empty. All of their furniture and such is in the garage of the farm house - for the most part.

That evening we ate at the Front Porch, a home-cookin', hole in the wall place in the next town over. We also stopped by my Aunt Rhonda and Uncle Doug's house on the way home to see my cousin Chad's and his wife, Sarah's baby, Olivia. We also went to see everyone else too ;).

Thanksgiving was a wonderful, over-eating day. We first went to my mom's aunt's house for lunch. She makes the best homemade chicken and noodles. Yummy!
The little boy on my lap is Eli, my cousin Lindsey's youngest son.

Then, we headed to my Granddad and Grandma Doris' house (my dad's parents) for dinner. Even though I was stuffed from lunch, I still ate...a lot.

To feel less guilty for the over-indulgence on Thanksgiving, my mom, sister, and I went for a walk Friday morning, while the boys went hunting. The boys came back empty handed - not seeing a single deer. After they got back, my sister, dad, and I took our daily cattle-peak. While we were out there, my dad pointed out a group of 7 deer running together across a field. Go figures.

Here's my dad coming back from hunting...
Stephen and Adam - after coming in from hunting...

One of my favorite parts of the trip was Friday night. My dad has two season tickets to Indiana University men's basketball games. He called Rick, the ticket guy, for four more tickets, so we all could go to the game that night. It sounds a little shady, I know. Before we went to the game, we ate at a place called "Nick's". It is a restaurant very close to the campus. When we walked in, it was filled with other game-going IU fans. It was so fun! I think we have found a new tradition. The food was awesome too!

Here are their "famous" fries!
They have a ton of seasoning on them!
All of Us... The Boys...
The Girls...
The decor was all INDIANA.

After Nick's, we headed to the game. We watched IU play Northwestern State. After a pretty rough first half, they came out a whole new team in the second half. It was a blast. I still get chills when they run out on the court and starters are announced. It takes me back to my sports playing days. IU won 100-64, making them 6-0! They haven't played any big named schools yet, but I am hopeful for a good season.

Assembly Hall

This is right after they announced the starters.
The lights were still off...

Before tip off...
After tip off... Perfect!
Banners... It has been awhile, I realize, but I am hopeful!

To hype the fans before the players come out, they show a video of the history of the program. They video highlighted the years that Bobby Knight was there. It was amazing the fan support for the ole' coach. My mom thinks Tom Creen, the current IU coach, is a class act. She thinks it is because of him, they recognize Bobby Knight. Most coaches would never want to recognize the success of a predecessor. Fun Fact: Tom Creen is the brother-in-law to John Harbaugh, the Baltimore Raven's head coach, and Jim Harbaugh, Stanford Football's head coach.

Yesterday, we took a family walk, trying to shave off a fourth of the calories we were consuming. I know our clothes are thanking us. Then, the boys decided to go for round two of hunting. Before they left my dad says, "After two hours, if we are unsuccessful, I will walk around and try to stir the deer up - don't shoot me. I will have orange on, so that should help." That's what you want to hear! Their final hunting adventure was bitter-sweet. Nothing was shot - not a deer or my dad.

Last night, we celebrated my Granddad and Grandma Doris's 60th anniversary. My grandmother is hardly mobile and doesn't like surprises. To accommodate, we went to a restaurant called "Piper's" in Greenwood just outside of Indianapolis. It was just close family who attended. I was very impressed how nice my grandparents looked. It was a good night.
My Uncle Doug (left) and my Dad (right).
The Lovely Couple - Notice how far apart they are sittng...
Adam and Jocelyn
Stephen was a good sport, helping my grandmother to and from the car, which takes lots of patience.
Olivia playing on her daddy's shoulders.
At the end of the night, we took a picture with our red coats on - my Grandma Doris' favorite color is red.

My parents were in charge of getting my grandparents to the restaurant. Then, my Aunt Rhonda and Uncle Doug took Joce, Adam, Letha (my cousin), Stephen, and me to the restaurant. It took about an hour to get there. On the way home, we started playing the church song game. You only give the first note of a church song and the rest of the people in the car have to figure out the song based on the first note. That game led to Stephen singing the medley he, Blake Jones, and Matt Hardison made up in high school. Basically they strung church songs together to create one large song. It is pretty impressive. If you are a Church of Christer, you would find it pretty hilarious. Needless to say, Stephen can't stop thanking me for making him sing a solo in front of my family. It was a hit though!

My uncle is a farmer and works with my Granddad. The Dyer clan is a very lucky bunch. There are many stories that end with "he's lucky he is alive!". They are a little absent minded, not careful, impatient, not always thinking through things, and, oh did I forget to mention, they play with chain saws, shot guns, and heavy farming equipment. My uncle was telling us stories of my Granddad and a few of his mishaps. It probably shouldn't have been funny - but I was crying laughing so hard. My aunt says "our guardian angels in Heaven are smokers on Prozac." The trip home went by so quickly. It was so fun catching up with my family.

We had a great trip/Thanksgiving! We are so thankful for much - mostly for our amazing families.

With Christmas a short/packed few weeks away, my goal is to enjoy the season and all it brings!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country, But You Can't Take the Country Out of the Boy!

There are many days when I have a heap of papers that need grading, I have heard "Mrs. Hasselbring" about a million times too many, report cards screaming “fill me out!,” and feel so exhausted – yet need to squander enough energy at the end of the day to write plans for the following week. On such occasions, I think why did I want to become a teacher? Answer: FALL BREAK

So CEOs, surgeons, doctors, lawyers, businessmen out there – are you jealous of me now?

Actually, I have a great class this year, but don’t get me wrong – there are definitely those days when I think to myself: “Target is hiring, Jill!” Those days typically come right before a break because the kids are excitedly anticipating the days off and you are at that point when everyone is sick of everyone – thus the importance of breaks.

My fall break was great – mainly because I got out of town – which was a nice change. Since our trip to California was cancelled because of Mr. Clot – I have been dying to go somewhere.

On the first Saturday, I travelled to Indiana (without Stephen, he had to “work” a.k.a. paying Trevecca to gain experience– that is more than volunteering, people!) to see my parents. My dad is officially retiring in December. They are currently making the transition from New Jersey to Indiana. They just so happened to be in Indiana looking at houses the same time I was off.

Fifteen minutes after I arrived, we headed to my mom’s cousin, Paula’s, house for their annual Hog Roast. They own a flooring company that basically “fancies-up” cement floors; they make cement floors look glossy. Supposedly there is a market out there. It is their company/family/friends get-together. They invite over 150 people every year to the roast. Charlie, Paula’s husband, just got a new cooker that is on wheels. He roasted probably close to 20 big slabs of brisket. Charlie asked me to lift the lid to the cooker so I started to lift. No movement. I had to literally put my body under the handle to lift the lid. I wasn’t able to see inside when I did. Charlie, who is a huge guy, took the handle with one hand (with ease, mind you) and lifted the lid, so I could see inside. To my defense, it was wrought iron. There was so much meat and it tasted so good! I ate way too much – but it was break, right? It was great catching up with my extended family.

After church on Sunday, we visited my grandparents. Visiting them at their house is always an adventure, mainly because my grandmother is an extreme hoarder. She puts “Clean House” to shame. Instead of being a flea market junky who buys old stuff, she is a catalog orderer, if you will. She buys all sorts of things in catalogs and forgets what she buys. It is unbelievable. Many of her purchases sit in boxes for long periods of time or still have the tags on them. I should have taken pictures. Her newest thing: getting rid of all her clothes because she can’t fit into them and buying a whole new wardrobe. The lady gets out of the house once a week, maybe.

On Monday, I spent some quality time running a 6 mile loop near the house with my mom. Then I ventured off with my dad. I originally agreed to help him go get a trailer – but I should have known things would be different. Let me back up first…

My father grew up on a farm in Indiana. He lived out in the country as a kid. He went to Indiana University where he met my mom. Shortly after they were married, they moved to Indianapolis. Since then, they have moved 4 times, always living in suburbia. However, we always come back to Indiana to visit, and my dad spends countless hours on the farm when he returns – either hunting, cutting down trees, you name it. Over the years he has purchased his own acreage around the original farm he grew up on. My grandfather and uncle help him farm his land, since he is unable to do it himself. In the last 10 years or so, actually more like his entire adult life, my dad has been planning out his retirement. Obviously the financial side of it, but also the hobby side of it. Unlike most people who retire near the beach or on a nice golf course, my dad wanted to be back out in the country.

I vividly remember one Friday evening, when our family was living in Germany, probably close to 10 years ago, we were eating dinner together at a restaurant. My dad informed my mom, sister, and me that he had bought 18 acres of land about five miles from the house he grew up in. My dad did not even confer with my mom about this purchase - a perfect example of what not to do in a marriage.

On the 18 acres was an old farm house. It is the place we stay every time we come to Indiana. He originally made the purchase more for the land than the house. While we lived in Germany, church friends of my uncle’s stayed in the house. The father of the family, Perry, is a builder. My dad let the family stay there for free for free labor in return. While they lived there, Perry made the original car port into a garage. They put new flooring in the kitchen, painted, remodeled the downstairs' bathroom, and installed a bathroom upstairs. My dad was able to make huge changes to the house for a much reduced price. The family lived there for 3 or 4 years. Shortly after my mom’s mom passed away, the family staying there moved out, we sold my grandparents’ home, and moved all of my grandparents’ furniture into the farm house. Even though the house was not purchased as a place for us to stay when we were in Indiana, it has definitely become a very smart move on my dad’s part.

Here is a distant view of the ole place...
Here is a closer picture of the place.
Nothing too fancy.
We used to joke that it looks like a face.
Can you see it?

Here are some pictures of the new bathroom.
Dad/Perry basically created a bathroom out of an attic.
It is huge!
The toilet and a stand up shower are to the right.

A tub overlooking the cow pasture. You're jealous, I know.

All along the opposite side of the sink, there is a closet.
The ceiling is slanted, so that cuts down on space, but it is still really big.

The house/land was originally purchased, I think, for my dad to raise cattle in retirement and a place for his hunting buddies to stay when they came for hunting season. To fulfill his dream of raising cattle, he purchased a bull from Oklahoma and a cow from Kansas this past summer. My brother-in-law, my dad’s cousin, a family friend, and my dad went on a “Bull Run” (that is what they called it) to Oklahoma and Kansas to pick-up the animals. My dad (and Mom) became proud owners of Joe, the bull, and Judy, the cow. Yes, they named them. I can just see it now: “Stephen, can you get a pound of Joe out of the freezer and thaw him? We are having tacos tonight! YUMMY!” My dad says that "the current cattle will be used as breeding stock and not as a nutritional meal. Down the line they will just be a number and it won't be so personal." Here is the gang leaving on the “Bull Run”:

Here are Joe and Judy.
My dad would be ashamed, but I don't know which one is which.
Judy is pregnant in this picture, so you would think I could tell - but I can't.
Here is my brother-in-law, Adam, and Granddad collecting hay for the cows over the summer for winter.

While I was in Indiana, we were hoping that the cow would have her calf. No such luck. However, on November 6th, Judy had her baby. The email I got that day from my dad was tittled: "It's a boy!" They named him Jud because Judy was impregnated by another bull, not Joe, before they got her. My dad sent out an email informing us and other interested family members/friends about the calf’s arrival. He said "the calf has gotten more attention than some human babies...sad, but interesting." My mom’s comment: “Jill, he is so cute! You will love him!” My mom is treating him like a pet. It is kind of getting out of hand. Can you tell my parents need grankids or what? Uuhmm...Jocelyn!

Here is Judy cleaning her new calf.

Here is Jud. He is so furry, he almost looks like a dog.
The cow my dad got is called a Galloway.
They were developed in Scotland over centuries where it was always cold, so one of their signature traits is a double fur coat.
He won't have any problem with winter weather, that's for sure!

Back to my “trip” to get the trailer… My dad bought a new trailer for the “Bull Run”. Since they are moving themselves, they decided to take the truck and trailer he has in Indiana back to New Jersey in order to load it with household items. My dad had the trailer stored in another barn on some other land he owns about five miles from the farm house and needed to get it. I think he wanted a companion, so he asked me to go. I was interested in seeing his old stomping grounds again and where we used to go fishing growing up. The next thing I know, he is informing me that I would be driving a tractor back to the house. Excuse me, what? The tractor is a stick shift, which I know nothing about driving. My dad literally gives me a two minute tutorial. One minute of which was to inform me that I would need to get over, if a line of cars builds up behind me as the tractor goes max 15mph. Awesome! The plan was that he would lead the way with the truck and trailer, and I would follow him. After about two minutes my dad pulls over, I stop the tractor about 100 yards behind him as I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop it properly and would run into the back of the trailer. He walks up to tell me: “I can’t drive this slow – so I am going to go on ahead. You can make it!” Before I could say a word, he was back in his truck and off. It was the tractor and me. I started running every situation in my brain that could possibly happen and how to operate the piece of machinery if such a situation occurred. The next thing I knew I had to turn on a more main country road. The problem: My dad only taught me how to stop the tractor – not how to really slow down. Luckily no one was coming so I turned. I am pretty sure only two wheels were on the ground. Then, I came to a rather steep, long hill and I am going about 15mph. I am praying, “Please make it up the hill! Make it up the hill, please!” We made it! After about 20 minutes, I made it back to the house to park it into the barn. However, when I made it into the barn, I started stopping early, just in case, and it was a good thing. Instead of pulling up the lever to stop it, I pushed it down to make it faster. For some reason, I looked at my dad with an “oh my gosh” look before I abruptly pulled the lever down for it to come to a stop. I was about an inch (maybe) from hitting the bulldozer in front of it. I turned to my dad and I am pretty sure he had some sweat beaded up on his forehead. My nerves were shot. I don’t think my dad will ask me to drive his tractor anytime soon. Fingers crossed.

Now for some pictures that were taken during the process...
Here is my dad getting the tractor out of its original home.
The tractor is actually in a barn of my grandfather's.

While we waited for my grandfather to come unlock the gas tank to fill up the tractor, my dad informed me that this barn would be used for cattle one day because they will eventually outgrow their current location. He was going to fence in the land all around it to give them a huge area to graze.
I was thinking that the barn could be re-painted, or not, and used as a place to get married.
How cool would that be... I think at least.

Before we got the trailer out of the new barn, my dad showed me around the property. It had a pond on it. He said: "Wouldn't it be neat to camp out here with the grandkids and jump off the end of the dock?" Thought number one: We better have boys! Thought number two: You guys will have so much fun without me!

While my dad was doing things in the barn, I was looking around and found this chest of drawers. I asked me dad where it came from because I couldn't recall ever seeing it in our house growing up. He said that the people who previously owned the land/barn just left it. While I realize it looks pretty dusty and gross in the picture, it is acutally pretty nice. Nothing a little paint and new knobs can't fix. So I asked him if I could have it one day, and he didn't care. I was pretty excited!

Once I found the chest of drawers, I started looking around more. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I found this desk that was a little rougher looking than the chest of drawers. It is an old, metal desk. It would need quite a bit of work, but I think it would be so cool to paint in a fun color. I don't know where I would put it - but I could find a place. So I asked for it too - and my dad complied. The trip with my dad was so worth it!

Here is the barn/shed that is storing my "new" furniture...
There my dad goes - without a worry in the world!
When I told him I was riding this post yesterday, he did say that he was a little worried I got lost or something because it took longer than he anticipated.

It is kind of hard to see, but this is proof that I really only did go 15 mph the whole time.

I made it! Not a single car came up behind me!

Shortly after the infamous tractor ride, we went to Bloomington (location of Indiana University) which is about thirty minutes from the farm house to look at some houses for my parents. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much luck. Either the houses needed a lot of work, weren’t clean, had crazy floor plans, or the location wasn’t right. It was great to go, however, because I saw a lot of ideas that I liked and many I would want to avoid if we bought or built a house of our own. I also was able to see what was considered negotiable, fixes that were inexpensive, and ones that were huge. There was one house that had some upgrades and decorating ideas that I loved. They had great bathrooms with good lighting and sinks like this:

It was amazing how much a nice bathroom really made a difference to me. I also like the built-ins they had. It also had a “kids” room that had easily wipe-able flooring and a chalk board on the wall – which I loved. It was definitely a beneficial experience.

My parents have decided that they will build a house on the property they bought a few years ago. You are probably wondering why they looked at houses if they already had a lot... Well, it is such a buyer's market they were going to see if they could get a good deal. They are going to store all their furniture in the farm house basement, garage (it is insulated), and a barn near the house. They are predicting that they will live in the farm house for about a year.

On Wednesday, I headed back to Nashville, but made a small detour to Lexington to eat dinner with Stephen’s parents. We hadn’t seen them since May when we went to the race. A visit was much overdue. I expected to grab a bite out, but Diane made brisket. It was so good! It was great to stop and see them. I am very lucky to have great in-laws. How many people can say they WANTED to stop without their spouse to visit their in-laws? Not many.

To end my Fall Break, Stephen and I went to Gatlinburg with our good friends – The Allen’s, Jones’, and Hardison’s . We joked that this is probably a trip the boys’ parents took about 20 years ago together as they all grew up at the same church. The trip was originally supposed to take place a year and a half ago before Stephen started PA School as a guys’ trip. It had to be cancelled – the owner gave us a voucher in order to rebook at a later date. This time the boys decided it should be a couples’ trip. It felt like it was free because we had paid for it so long ago. We went to the Outlets, watched football, hung out, and the boys did the hot tub thing. Highlight of the Trip: Emery (Blake and Julie's baby) falling asleep in my arms while we walked around the Outlets. Lucky for Stephen she did so when we were in Gap – so I didn’t buy a single thing. The girls rode up together and the boys rode together – it was really nice having girl time and catching up. It was also nice to see our Birmingham friends – Matt and Andrea.

I have two more days of school until my next break - hopefully it won't take as long to post about our Thanksgiving Break.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Best Saturday Ever

Ever since Stephen and I have been married – life has been really crazy. Our first year of marriage was my first year of teaching – enough said. Then, as I concluded my first year, Stephen began PA school. A few short months later, I started teaching a new grade level and began grad school. All of that to say, Saturdays were a day of catch-up – whether it be with laundry, school work, studying, grad school, cleaning, grading papers, grocery shopping, etc. There was always something!

But this past Saturday was different...

Stephen and I slept in until about 10ish – which I never usually sleep in – usually I get up early on a Saturday to get a head start on my never ending to-do list. Then, I made cinnamon rolls (Pillsbury actually made them! I got them from Publix for 25 cents – I am becoming a coupon freak! More on that later maybe…)

We watched the end of game day and some college football. After we ate breakfast, I turned to Stephen and said, “Let’s go to the flea market today.” I added that it was a beautiful day and it would be so nice to spend quality time together (fully anticipating a "no way" response). He agreed – I was a little shocked. It helped that he kind of had a break from school this weekend as he just finished his first clinical and starts his new one tomorrow.

Off we headed to the flea market… I was like a kid on Christmas morning. It has been a long time since I have bought anything for our home. We were only there for a few hours, but I came up with some good buys…

I saw this wrought iron lamp and loved it...

I got it for a mere 12 bucks. It looks pretty plain in the picture, but I still like it a lot. It needs to be re-wired (probably), painted, and a shade – but all of that will be a fraction of the cost of buying a brand new lamp that size.

Then, I found this mirror.

Two sisters were manning the booth. They call their business, “The Vintage Sisters.” One sister sews and the other paints – they refinish furniture, chalk boards, windows, etc. They make all sorts of pillows; some with silhouettes painted on them, some with a chandelier painted on them with diamonds, and others with flowers sewed on - which screams vintage and AWESOME to me. I really loved all their stuff! I wrote my email address on their email list because they send out pictures of new things they complete. Basically, the sisters give you first dibs on their stuff. It is all at a great price too. The other great thing is – the ladies are normal. If I had to meet up with them to get a piece of furniture – it wouldn’t be creepy. Here is their blog, if you are interested: www.2vintage Their blog is not quite as impressive as their booth.

The last and biggest find was two golf clubs. Stephen found a 5 wood and a hybrid for about $100 less than their asking price on EBay. Yes, he came home and jumped on the internet to see just how good of a deal he got! While we watched college football, he sat with his clubs in hand, swinging them in the air. He could not put them down. You would have thought Christmas was in September at our house on Saturday!

Then, Stephen and I cleaned up our house and had the Lexington boys (and their wives, of course) over that evening to watch UK get slaughtered by the Gators. We ordered pizza and hung out. I don’t think I have laughed that much in a long time!

It was the best Saturday ever.

It hit me this weekend that even though I see Stephen a lot, it is not the same as spending time together. Because we have been so busy with the school thing, it is like we have been roommates for the last year or more – which can be a drag at times. It was so nice to feel like a normal, married couple this weekend!

Here's to seven more rotations in PA school! Good luck to Stephen starting his peds clinical tomorrow!