Early last Monday morning, Joe came knocking on our door. We were just sitting down to breakfast and he says, “Get your things off the back porch washhouse, I am tearing it off today!” Really? We were not prepared, we never knew it would be that soon. The kids and I could not do the 7 loads of laundry that morning, because we had to find homes for all our canning things, laundry things, and bulk grains. Wow, we worked solid for an hour and the kids had it all hauled here and there until the back porch was swept and ready for Joe to come and smash it off. Mark was busy making racks, of course, and was not planning on the big project, but Joe said it had to be done because he ordered the concrete on Wednesday. Now that is a lot to get done in 2 days. A whole foundation to be ripped off, plaster, doors, windows, all the basement steps, torn out. About 10 in the morning Joe was back over and he had the boys and girls grabbing tools for him, sorting the rocks, wood, and rubble into various piles. Wow, he can sure get a job going with a bunch of kids willing to help as ours were. They were so excited to see this all happen. Knocking and bashing, tearing and squeaking went the old rusty nails and boards. Junior was happily carrying boards, Miles was all the while running the skid steer for Joe and prying nails with his vice grips. Mikey was digging out flowers and moving them while the girls planned out where to transplant them. Busy times. The dust whirled into the kitchen in sheets. When Mark was finished with packing the next rack, he dedicated himself to the tearing off as well. All the good lumber was saved as well as the doors, trim, and windows. On Wednesday, they had a few more Amish men out to help and the concrete was poured. The photo above is of Mark trawling the concrete until smooth. This will be our new canning room/wash house. There is a concrete floor with a drain in the middle which will be ever so handy when we butcher, can, or wash laundry. You can hose down the room and it drains out in the pitched drain on the floor. This is what all Amish homes have because of the life they choose to live. A life filled with working with family, many hours dedicated to putting up the harvest, canning, butchering livestock in the most practical fashion. I am so excited for the wash house. There will be a kitchen sink and a bathroom out there. Having one bathroom for seven can be tricky. We found a bed pan for those emergency moments for now. Often I wonder if an outhouse would be more practical, but then again, in our part of the country, outhouses are outlawed. It is against proper code, so I guess I wonder in vain on that.
Now the outside wall is being constructed and are we ever so thankful for it since the winds have been blowing briskly upon our kitchen wall. Since the kitchen was in indoor wall, there is no insulation so it has been so chilly in the house. The wash house project came so unexpectedly soon that Mark was not able to hook up the coal stove in time for the cooler weather. We were doing school with the gas lights lit and wearing winter clothing and scarves to keep warm. When the day finally came that Mark could hook our coal stove up, we were so thrilled beyond words. The warmth of that stove was so cozy. I think I spent most of the forenoon just basking in its lovely heat and the dance of flames had a way to lull me to sleep in the chair as I was reading a book. I thought, wow, this is the life!
Now that the coal stove is going, I have been able to use it’s warmth to make our kefir and yogurt. What a blessing! We never heated with coal, so we are learning how to keep an even heat all through the day and night. I think Mark likes heating with wood more, but the chimney is not sound for burning wood at the moment, and would need some tinkering to do so. Eventually, he says he can modify this stove by tearing out the feeding mechanism inside to house the wood for burning. That should be interesting to see how that would work. I think it would be really pretty to see the logs burning.
Oh, the beauty of fall! For God hath created everything in it’s season to enjoy. The children enjoy the brisk days, raking the golden crisp leaves into piles to later jump in. Those are things I did as a kid, and it seems that it never loses it’s thrill. An age old pastime for children. On Thursday, we packed up the buggy and drove down the lane to Harry’s farm. We helped them butcher 100 laying hens for canning. Since they so graciously helped us butcher ours, it was time to return the favor. And gladly I do so all the time, because I feel like I learn so much. Miles was the decapper and Molly stood at the table with all us 8 women gutting and cleaning. Molly thought it was such a fun time to find all the eggs inside. A laying hen will have all the eggs she’ll lay right in a row for days and days. They just get smaller and smaller the further they are inside the bird. She even found eggs that had the shell on them. I know to some this is hard to imagine for a young girl to enjoy these sorts of things, but because she was raised with the homesteader’s life, she thinks nothing of cleaning birds. I say that is handy for her to enjoy it, because we have another butcher day coming and if you are squeamish, you would not much look forward to another full day of it. The day was filled with chatting and laughter. Many hands make light work. We canned some whole pieces, some chunked breast meat, and lots of broth. The other 50 pounds was to be ground and seasoned for chicken bologna to can. That is a handy thing to have on the pantry shelf. What I use it for is a quick dinner. I add some mayo to the bologna and we can make some chicken salad sandwiches. I say that is handy, indeed. I asked the women to speak in datch so we could learn how the words fit together. It was just a joy to chime in from time to time as I understood more and more. Elvesta is a good teacher for datch. She tells me how to roll my ‘r’, flatten my “l” and so on. I think that measure of care will help me to pronounce things even better. They were glad I fixed the dinner casserole for the group. When ever we get together for big butchering days, one will bring the casserole, and the rest bring a desert to pass. That makes for a lot of sweets, but it is a special treat for us. Molly and Megan made another German Chocolate 3 tiered cake, and was that ever good. The Amish women were just so impressed that the girls can make such a great tasting and complicated cake as they did.
After a long day of butchering and canning, we set off for home in the buggy, the kids and I. Down the lane towards the ever glowing setting sun. With the wind at our faces, we huddled close together. It is good to have my family, I thank God for each on of them, and for the sound of clopping hoofs, the pretty view, the community life, oh, it is such sweet joy!
Now for those 7 loads of laundry. Necessity is the mother of all invention, of course! I went to an Amish garage sale and found the double galvanized tubs for $10. What a deal. I was hoping for some that I could just wheel around and they happen to be selling some down the lane at the garage sale. We hooked up our hand wringer and set ourselves to the task. It took some lovely team work and a hand plunger washer, and our clothes got so clean in a short time. Molly plunged the presoak tub of clothing on the front porch. Megan was wringing it into the main wash and then we set our big wooden cutting boards over the tubs to wring the rinsed clothing before hanging out to dry. It was a little chilly out there, but when everyone is working, it makes you a lot warmer all over. For the tough spots, I used our washboard and gave the clothes a good rub down. This would be what you call a good old fashioned laundry set up. I like it and think on a hot summer day, we would enjoy splashing around while we wash.
Since it was a cooler day, the children bundled up while they hung out the wash. It was a very windy day, and the laundry was still dry in no time flat.
Miles and the boys had fun loading down our homesteader drying rack since it holds around 56 feet of drying space. I know that we will park that rack in front of the coal stove in the mid winter. Mark says he is going to make me another big rack so we can dry lots of wash near the cozy stove.
At the Amish garage sale, I also picked up another treadle sewing machine for $10. So now I gave each of the girls their very own treadle machine. Megan has the Elgin, Molly has the New Home, and I sew with the White. They are so thankful and enjoy many hours of sewing. They made two dresses last week and are working on making little dollies this week. They are so excited to learn new things each day. It is really a joy to my heart to teach them what ever I know about sewing, which is not too much, but I sure enjoy learning myself.
On Friday, I spent the afternoon with Orpha, who is a dear Amish friend I have had for many years. She traced off a coat for me and lovingly taught me how to sew the coat together, lining and all. I used a tri blend dark colored denim and bought some thinsulate for the lining. After about 2 hours, the coat was finished. Mikey was the proud new owner of the coat. I sewed some snaps on with some carpet thread and he just sat there watching ever stitch I made with earnest expectation. When the coat was complete, he paraded around the house, telling all the other children to look at his “new” coat the mom made. How sweet is that? I look forward to making many new coats this fall and now that I got a chance to have someone walk me through it, I think I can manage the task on my own. I may even teach Mikey how to make a coat since he seemed so interested in watching me. That is going to be fun.
Miles is standing by the buggy he is saving up to purchase. It belongs to Joe, our Amish landlord. He is interested in selling it but also lets Miles use it on cold days. On Saturday, Miles hitched this buggy up to Abbey and away he went to help Joe Schrock from the harness shop. There was church at Joe’s on Sunday, so the shop had to be cleaned and made perfect for church. Miles offered to help since he loves to learn and spend time with Joe, his new found friend. He swept, hauled loads on skid steers, raked leaves, and moved equipment. He enjoyed his day with the Shrocks helping them, and they enjoyed having Miles with them all day. When he came home, late that day, he had many funny stories to share of all his experiences working with the Amish men. I was glad for that opportunity for him. I know that Miles will have a successful business someday, because he is not afraid to work for free, to help others in need, and is excited to learn what he can along the way. That is a rare quality, indeed.
Miles has already started a rabbit business. He has a very good friend from Minnesota that talks to him each day about rabbits and hunting and what all, it is just such a blessing. Yes, Miles relates so much better to adults, so we allow him to have Godly men we trust to spur ideas along with him. He has a grandpa nearby that he calls, bumpa, who is my dad. He calls him every day to talk about business endeavors, horses, dogs, and chickens. He calls another adopted grandpa from Missouri, named Poppa Wolf who is a horseman and used to be a real cowboy. They visit and Miles has many questions about horses. The other from Minnesota, is Uncle Mike, who has a full time organic produce farm along with rabbits and beef. He does all that farming from a wheelchair. So, Miles is in the rabbit business. He has one buck and 3 does for now, until they are mature. Once they start breeding, they could have hundreds of offspring over the course of the year. Mark is going to help Miles construct the rabbit hutches. I like how Miles taps into all his resources. It show initiative and that he is becoming a man.
This past week, Mark was thrilled to get his four solar panels by mail. Eli came and helped him hook them all up to the battery inverter. It was fun to see them work on that together. Now we can use that power for shop stuff and for business. I think Mark will put the panels on posts that can be turned toward the sun when needed. That will make us more power, I am sure.
Mark is busy, busy, busy. Either he is building the porch, making racks, or running the Amish around here and there. Lots to do, but he is very much enjoying his life here in the community. It is great to have the other men to work alongside.
Life is busy and busy is good for us. It keeps us humble, joyful, and close knit.