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.

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