Jenna turned 11.  This is her 4th birthday with a family.
I think it took 11 tries to blow out the candles, but that's OK, she just laughed about it.
She ordered a strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting.
Can't tell by the picture, but she got jewelry, a tutu, 
Cinderella doll, and a movie.
Her wonderful sister, Kristen, brought her this cat, that she named Peaches.
We have three 11 year olds until January.

This week...

We went to the orthodontist and some stores in Bham.
Other than that, Emmi cleaned cow ears.  Ewwww, but for some reason she does it.

Saw this shirt at Tractor Supply, now you know.

Got our 3rd cutting of hay!
Made pancake syrup:  maple, strawberry, and blueberry.
And raked some leaves.  Hope you had a great week.


Blessed that my hubby has plumbing skills. 
 Blessed that we have a tractor to do most of the digging.

Blessed to live in a rural area where we don't have to pay lots of money for permits,  and a plumber to do something we are able to do ourselves.
Though we still have a long way to go, we are blessed to have a functioning master shower, even if does have a painter's extension pole for a rod, and the curtain is tied up with ribbon.... until I get to the store later this week.
Blessed to have what 2.6 billion people (about 40%)  in the world do not indoor toilet.  

Actually we have 4,  three in the house and 1 in the milk barn.  
More blessed (in terms of plumbing) than 
1.6 million Americans.  YES, 1.6 MILLION Americans do not have indoor toilets, per 2014 census info.
(When you live in a renovation, things don't necessarily get done in the normal order i.e. toilet before walls)
Of course I will be thrilled when the bathroom shiplap walls go in, the details are done, and it looks pretty.  
But I am thankful for the lessons along the way.  

Farmer skills

Or should I say Jack of all trades.

Today's farmer skills include redneck sewage line repairs.
Earlier in the summer a leak was discovered in the field lines to the milk barn's septic tank.  The  field lines were busted.  Since this is the part of the system PAST the septic tank, we didn't have to be in a huge rush (or work in 100 degree temps) to repair it.  
We only run about 20 gallons of water a day through the milk barn, and rarely use the toilet, so the broken field lines only resulted in an occasional mushy spot, nothing major.
Here is DH's fix-it solution, let me again state that this is PAST the septic tank, so only  gray water coming through here.
After we filled the hole in with a load of gravel, Wes and AJ had the job of spreading grass seed and hay over the dirt.  Below they are loading square bales onto the tractor, to use for ground cover.
All that work, now lets go have some fun with Moe!!

Weekend projects

Jake was home for the weekend, and I had him all to myself on Saturday.  DH was working on the plumbing for our bathroom, with the help of a skinny friend, who could get under the house.
Jake and I tackled this 20' long trailer full of mulch.  We mulched the landscaping on 3 sides of the house, and a big area under oak trees.  Only 1/2 of the load was ours, the other half goes to a neighbor (who owns the trailer).
While I was spreading mulch, Jake busted up the sidewalk to nowhere.  It actually led to an old entrance, which is now covered by the side porch.  
He hauled the concrete chucks to a hole in one of the pastures that we are trying to fill in.
I was so glad I had Jake to help me get one of my projects done!
Kristen came on Sunday, so for a few hours the whole family was here.  
Didn't get any work out of her though!

Beautiful weather

I love this weather!  We're getting so much done, without having a heatstroke.  And we have still been able to swim a couple of days.
We went a week without running the air conditioning.  
Now the nights are cooler, and the pool water temp has dropped to 74, so probably no more swimming.
Emmi is taming Snickers,  he's a good boy, just a little skittish.  

3 good looking boys got haircuts this week.
Emmi put Fat Boy in the food bin, and he though he was in heaven.  He happily ate while she prepared the feed bowls for the other animals.
This is the back of the milk barn.....and it's clean!  Even the cows noticed the difference.


That DH just spent half the day, and over $1,000 at Lowe's. 
 But what that REALLY means is that my bathroom is getting wired and plumbed tomorrow!!

Can you feel my excitement!  OK, I'll try to calm down.  
In other news....
Wes found this cute little bottle in a pasture.
My porch is clean, until the plumbing work begins tomorrow.  
In fact I pressure washed the entire house.  Feeling returned to my arms about 3 days later =0
I removed the very ugly aluminum shutters that were on the windows.  
Craftsman style, wide trim, was never meant to be paired with shutters.
I would love for that wide trim and the eaves to be another fact I'd like the whole house to be another color............maybe one day.
After the washing, a little color difference can still be seen where the shutters were, but not as much as shown above.
I also made this sign by the front door.  I bought an already painted canvas at a thrift store for a dollar, then just painted over the previous artwork.

Sanford and son

would feel right at home....., until this week.  This is our 4th burn pile in the year that we have lived here.
Don't worry, the tire on the right will be removed.
We are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, getting this farm in order, and like we want it.

DH took 2 of these loads to the scrap metal place.  There were 3 kitchen sinks, a water heater, old freezer and stove, lots of bent fencing material, old swing set frames and oh, so much more.
I was soooo happy to see the scrap metal pile go, it was icing on the cake to get paid $130 for all that scrap!

Our parking shed is clean.   Boys swept, and swept, and swept.  Then I got out the blower, and it looked like a Kansas dust storm.  At one point we were blowing it out is back on the boy's chore list.
And my van was so dirty.....yes,  I blew it out.  It actually works great if you plan to wipe the seats and wall panels afterward, so they aren't left with dust on them.
We're having a clean week=)

Our last two weeks

I can't believe I haven't posted in two weeks!
Last week Avery had an appointment at the cleft clinic at Children's.  It has been over two years since her last surgery.  Thankfully surgeries and appointments are, for the most part, a thing of the past for most of our kids.  I had forgotten how draining a clinic day can be, and have to say I am a much better person, now that I do NOT have to go to Children's every few weeks, like we once did.  
After being weighed, measured, having a hearing test, seeing a speech pathologist, and genetics trying to get their share of the money, we sat in the room TWO hours before seeing the plastic surgeon.  
Genetics always sends someone in to see if we want to talk to the doctor, we always refuse....because we learned the hard way, that if the Dr. walks into your room, you pay.  The lady tried to sway me, saying they really like to "follow" the patients (Avery did have testing as a baby).   Now do you think her genetic make-up has changed???? So what's to "follow"??  See, I told you, Dr. appointments make me a mean person.
Avery is great, but will need at least one more nose revision in the future.
We've done lots of mowing, weed eating, and general clean up, the past few weeks.  The goats are having fun on the garden mulch pile.
Josie got a new feed called Chaffhaye, it has increased the milk a bit.  We've really missed the extra milk that Becky was giving us, and the Jersey babies are drinking 3 gallons a day.  That leaves us with only about 2 gallons.  I know that sounds like a lot, but it takes almost a whole gallon for my family at breakfast alone.  I ma thankful that I was making butter like a mad woman earlier in the summer, because now there is only enough cream for sour cream.
DH put headlights on my golf cart.  I asked him about more "street lights", we have a few and he doesn't like them.  So his alternative solution was headlights, and he will be putting a motion sensor flood light on the milking barn soon.
Emmi sold Cloud today.  The buyers were impressed that she was the one who had to sign the registration certificate, and took the money.  She's a little business woman.
That's my exciting life, what's going on in yours?

My Dr. Bronner's trial

Many of the homestead blogs I read have mentioned Dr. Bronner's soaps from time to time.  
One night I came across this site.  They rate everything from cosmetics to paint for dangerous chemicals, you can even click on the item and find out what the danger issue is with a specific chemical.  
I knew hair coloring was questionable (I didn't color my hair until age 40, and stopped at 47), and I knew about the dangers in antiperspirant (have used a homemade deodorant for a few years), but I learned so much more!
For example:  Did you know that tear free baby soaps aren't really tear free?  A drug (yes, drug) is added to basically numb the eye so the baby doesn't feel the pain from the soap.  And that triclosan is in many hand soaps, could be cancer causing, and is being banned in a few states?
In fact many of the chemicals in our body care products are banned in European countries (not to mention many of the chemicals in our foods).  Oh, and dryer sheets and toxic fumes....don't even get me started.
Just let me jump into my trial:

I bought castille liquid soap, bar soap, lotion, hand soap, conditioner, and shave gel.  Hubby has not used the shave gel, so I have no review on that.  I bought most items in peppermint scent, because their website has monthly specials, and peppermint was on sale in June.  
Bar soap:  Love it.  A good bit pricier than the Ivory we have used for decades, but a bar lasts about 2 weeks.  We purchased the other scents at Whole Foods, except rose, which had awful reviews.  We like the peppermint the best, followed by Tea tree.  The tea tree doesn't smell great, but has the added disinfecting qualities of tea tree oil.  The bar soap as a shampoo is fine for DH's very short hair, but turned mine into straw.  Actually it stripped everything away (like any bar soap does to hair) and left me with straw.
Which leads me to the conditioning hair rinse.  It only comes in citrus, which I didn't like, it works O.K.  but it comes out to be about 50 cents per use----NO THANKS!!  Dr. Bronner's has a blog, that suggested rinsing with apple cider vinegar as an option.  I used the acv rinse, it left me with a few tangles at the ends, which Dr. Bronner's hair creme (not pictured) took care of.  
After a month, I returned to my normal suave product, the acv rinse, and a little leave in conditioner on the ends.  After only 2 days my hair was restored from straw, to this:

Moving right along.....handsoap: great, lotion: OK but left me sticky feeling, liquid castile soap: great for some things.  The liquid castile soap claims many uses, I only used it for body wash, dishes, mop solution and all purpose cleaner.  The body wash mix was OK, I just didn't care for it and think I would use too much to be cost effective.  For dishes-no- doesn't foam, didn't work well.  Mop solution- great, and room smells great afterwards.  My favorite:  All purpose cleaner.  I have used this mix daily when wiping kitchen counters.  Cleans well, and I love the scent.  I have sprayed it on my hands after chopping onions, and it takes away the onion smell.  For all the ways I used the liquid castile soap for the last 2 months, I have only put about a 6 oz. dent in a 32 oz. bottle, making this quite cost effective for the ways I am using it.
In conclusion (finally!) we will continue to use the liquid castile soap for AP cleaner and mop solution, the bar soap, and the adult bath will have the hand soap (too expensive for kids, they continue to use homemade foaming soap).
The girls are now using Everyone all in one soap and lotion, and like it.  Ours came from Whole Foods, but can also be bought at Amazon.   This lower their "dangerous chemicals" score from a 5 to a 3.
The giant 32 oz. size with a pump make it a winner for kids in the shower.
The boys will soon be testing Everyday Shea's body wash--chemical score only 1.
And I will try their shampoo and conditioner after my suave runs out.

Thanks for sticking with me through this long post.  Are you trying to healthier products?  What do you like?