Monthly Archives: December 2012

Basement Renovation Project Begins

The electricians are here today!  Yay!  This is the first step in finishing our basement.  We will have three new rooms instead of one big concrete block walled room.  The front section will be divided into a large family room where we can watch movies, read, and play games by a log fire.  We tend to spend a lot of time here in winter and it has formerly been a pretty dingy, depressing place to spend so much time.

We are adding outlets and rewiring the lights so that each new “room” will operate on its own switch instead of all the lights everywhere operating on two switches.

I found a great batch of white beadboard cabinets on craigslist and drove to get them yesterday.


The cupboards will go in a small work room on the same side of the basement as the  family room, and be a sort of walk-through between the family room and Jesse’s office.  This little room will house all those cupboards, a countertop and a work table.  We can do all the printing, collating, and mailing for Jesse’s work there, as well as store the family’s art and sewing supplies, and extra school records and such – and – the most exciting part (to me, at least) is the Gift Wrapping Center I will build.  Check this out:


This is one of several photos I found online to help me figure out how to build a space that will make gift wrapping much more pleasant a task.  We currently store all our paper, bags, and bows in several boxes under my bed, and we often sit, huddled on the hard floor, scrunched over, knees aching, cutting, wrapping, taping things.  The need for a wrapping job to be done is often met with much procrastination and gritted teeth.  It will be so nice to have everything hung or in drawers or baskets, close at hand.  And the luxury of a countertop or table to wrap on!  Aaah!  Heavenly.  I’ll admit I’m pretty spoiled to get such luxury!  I think it will be  a fun challenge to take these cabinets and retrofit them to work in the space we’ll have.

The remaining space in the basement will not be finished off.  It will still sport concrete block walls and weird, surface mounted outlets at odd heights.  But we will paint – probably a cheerful, energizing yellow, and put all our exercise equipment in that new space. We currently have to remove lamps from side tables, move toys, unplug lamps to plu in the treadmill, and dodge support poles when we’re trying to work out along with a yoga DVD or something like that.  It will be a pleasure to just be able to jump on the treadmill or lay out the yoga mats when we’re ready to go.

I hope this will be fun.  It’s a huge undertaking, and we’re having a lot of help from a local builder putting the walls up.  That will make it smoother, but still, the kids and I will be doing a lot of painting in the three rooms, and I anticipate that the whole cabinet/workspace project will take a lot of time and effort.

But seriously, who starts a renovation project at Christmas?  Really!

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To Save a Recipe

Click the photo to go to to see how they organize their recipes.

If you’ve been tuning in to Small Home Farm Radio or following my blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that I like to cook a little.  Okay,  I love good food (must be the French in me) and so I am always in search of great new recipes to add to my repertoire.  Especially simpler recipes.  I’m not usually willing to spend an hour of prep time and then babysit something on the stove or cut out 100’s of little pieces of something or other to make it look pretty.  I want great food, in a reasonable amount of time, that appeals to all the senses.

But I will admit to having a slight problem coming from all this culinary research.  Recipes.  Written recipes.  They start to pile up, you know.  And they get crumpled and spattered and misplaced.  Now, I can be crafty with the best of them.  Once a year or so.  Otherwise, I really have too much other stuff going on to want to spend time crafting someplace gorgeous to put all my meticulously hand-copied recipes, like this:

If *you* like to hand copy your recipes, you can click on the image to buy this box at

Or for that matter, I dont’ really want to spend time hand-copying anything.  I can type really fast.  But seriously, I don’t even want to type out my recipes and put them in a pre-fab recipe keeper (I tried that once.  I typed out about half a dozen recipes before I fainted from boredom.)

I’m a nuts and bolts kind of girl with an eye for aesthetics, and a passion for efficiency.  That means being able to find a recipe quickly and easily, and being able to add a recipe I like to my collection quickly and easily.

For that, I had to give up any grandiose ideas of more complicated storage options (see above).  But what I’ve come up with just might make your organizational daydreams come true.

I bought a plain 3-ring binder, like this:

And a 3-hole paper punch, like this:

And some divider tabs, like these:

And now, when I try a new recipe I got online somewhere, and I want to keep it and use it again, I merely print the recipe off of my computer.  I may have to copy and paste it into a word document if there is too much visual junk on the page that wants to print off, too.  Then I punch it with my 3-hole punch and put it into the binder behind the appropriate tabs.  A 3-hole punch is definitely worth the investment – a single hole punch will make you want to tear out your hair. I’ve labeled my tabs things like “Side Dishes,” “Desserts,”  “Soups and Sandwiches,” etc…  You do yours however it makes sense to you.  I don’t recommend filing them alphabetically, because “Deer Camp Chili” and “Venison Chili” start with two entirely different letters and if you forget the exact name of your recipe, you will definitely not be efficient in finding that recipe!   If it’s a recipe that a friend has given me on a scrap of paper or a small card, I may just photocopy the entire thing onto a full-sized sheet of paper so I can file it with the rest.

Some people prefer to use sheet protectors for this very thing, so their recipes can be wiped off if they get spattered.  I find the sheet protectors too bulky and too expensive for the sheer quantity of recipes I collect.  If it gets too gunked up or starts to fade, I just print off another copy and replace it,  But other than slowing up your project (and costing more) I see no reason not to use the page protectors if you like.  You may even be able to find a recipe book that comes pre-made with full-size sheet protectors in it already.

This binder and free printables is showcased at Click the photo to go their page.


Ultimately, I had to just start where I was, with the recipe I was printing off that day.  Eventually I got around to adding more of the recipes I had stashed around the kitchen, but I knew making it a big “project” to put all my recipes in order would make me procrastinate forever, and meantime – more recipes would pile up here and there.  So if you have the same disorganized mess I had, just grab a binder and jump in where you are.  Add the next recipe you print off.  Don’t worry about the forty that are floating around.  As you use them again, punch them and add them to the right divider.  And if you don’t use them again, feel free to toss them in the trash!

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Horses in A Winter Rain

It was already dark and it was drizzling when I headed down to take care of the horses for the night. I couldn’t see very well until I turned the floodlight on. The paddock was flooded in spots. Sophie stood expectantly at her stall door. She always starts neighing as soon as the back door up at the house opens. She feels it might help her get food faster if she sounds insistent, which she does. And manly. She’s a very manly sounding mare. Her deep chested draft body takes precedence over her pony femininity. But all her deep neighing doesn’t help her much, I’m afraid. She’s usually last to get her food in the order of things.

The horses were, all of them, wet. Their backs and faces had succumbed to the drizzle that began earlier in the afternoon. They obviously didn’t mind. That’s a funny thing about horses, I think. No matter how inclement the weather, they don’t seem to mind most of it. Except in the worst storms they will walk around outside as if it were a leisurely sunny afternoon. It’s only when the winds really pick up and get blowing fiercely that they head for the peace and shelter of their stalls.

An older or sick horse, on the other hand, sometimes doesn’t have the strength or reserves of energy to keep itself warm. Lacy, our 31 year old mare, falls into that category. She’s always painfully thin, no matter how much feed or what kinds of supplements we give her. She’s what’s known as “a hard keeper,” something many of us humans with an extra bit of padding here and there wish we could master the art of. Lacy has always had a high metabolism, and now that she’s old and her teeth don’t work so well anymore – she’s lost a couple of them – she can hardly eat enough to keep from looking emaciated. The end result is that when the temperature drops and we get a freezing rain, Lacy can’t keep herself warm very well.

For most horsekeepers, the idea of blanketing a horse just because it’s cold out, or because it’s raining, is not a good one. For serious equestrians who train year-round and keep their horses clipped to help them cool out after winter riding, it’s imperative. If clipped horses aren’t blanketed in cold or adverse weather, they have no means to protect themselves. But if someone were to blanket a young and healthy, unclipped horse just because they feel sorry for the horse and don’t want it to be cold or uncomfortable, they’d likely overheat the poor thing and make it sick. Horses have been keeping themselves warm in cold weather since long before they were ever domesticated. Many people often have the mistaken impression that they should keep their horses shut up tight in a warm barn so they aren’t cold. This, too, is a dangerous misunderstanding. Most horses far prefer twenty below in mid-winter to eighty-five and sunny in mid-summer. They can keep warm much easier than they can cool down in a hot sun. Shutting them up tight in a warm barn will lead to lung affections that can result in severe debility, or worse. Horses absolutely must have plenty of good ventilation – meaning fresh circulating air. As long as they have a place to get out of the wind or the weather if they like, and as long as that place gets good, constant air circulation, they can well take care of themselves.

Lacy, as I mentioned, does not have the energy reserves anymore to keep herself warm when it is wet and very cold out. The rain soaks through her coat, eradicating the dry, fluffy layer of insulation her winter coat usually provides, and allows the cold to soak into her and chill her dangerously. So we put on a nice, wool lined canvas blanket and buckle it into place. We must be careful not to keep it on if things warm up, as she’ll begin sweating and get very uncomfortable. But there is little danger of that here in December. It’s more likely to happen during a September cold front. Still, once the freezing rain has stopped and she is dry, the blanket comes off so that her own coat can protect her once more. But for tonight, she’s been given a nice bucket of soaked beet pulp mixed with senior pellet rations. We top dress it with a special weight-building supplement for skinny horses, and a scoop of kelp meal to give her all kinds of extra nutritional goodies to keep her healthy, and of course, we give her all the hay she can eat on the side.

Although I’m always loathe to leave the warm, comfortable house, I rarely fail to instantly chirk up once I get to the barn and begin work. The horses are so happy to have their feed. And it feels good to refill their water, clean out buckets, and rake up loose hay. Sometimes I prefer to be on the mucking team, but these days, the contemplative nature of the feeding job – moving in and out among the horses, rinsing and filling buckets, forking hay – settles deep and provides a much-needed boost of energy.

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Lazy Saturday Auto Surfing


Mmmm… I like lazy Saturdays.  I don’t think I have more than a scant handful of them over the course of a year.  This one has been nice.  Before heading to the gym around 10:45, I lolled around in my jammies, drinking a homemade hazelnut latte’, surfing the computer looking for a replacement car.

JJ is seventeen and taking college classes several days a week.  He also goes to The Ranch regularly to volunteer or just visit.  He needs his own car.  I understand Jesse’s reluctance – even disdain – for owning a third car and having to maintain it.  And to be honest, although we love to give our children good things, we’ve never been interested in handing our children things on a platter.  We want them to be wise money managers.  Penny wise, but not pound foolish.  So my efforts to convince JJ that he really needs to buy himself a car and quit borrowing ours so often keep bouncing off his impenetrable head.  He’s happier borrowing our cars and only paying for his insurance than he would be to buy his own and also have to pay for maintenance, gas, and increased insurance costs.  I think we taught him too well.

I’ve been happy with my dependable, fun-to-drive, seven year old Honda CR-V.  It replaced an old, reliable Odyssey which was fabulous for hauling around everything from furniture to lumber to four kids, bikes, and suitcases.  The CR-V is almost that great.  Only thing I can’t throw in there is a 4×8 sheet of plywood.  But it is really starting to look beat up.  JJ has been none too kind to it, banging up the rear corner whilst backing up into a tree nearly a year ago.  Recently a long, jagged scrape has appeared all along the passenger side, and for some reason, my body shop dropped the ball on replacing the front fender which was bashed in and cracked when a lady backed up into me in a parking lot several months ago.

So this morning I surf the web adding and subtracting possibilities.  Durability is imperative.  Anything with less than four stars for durability is an automatic no-go.  Cargo room is a second must-have.  No Jeep Wrangler for me, much as I think they’re a fun and sporty option.  If I can’t throw bikes or lumber in there, it just won’t work.  All wheel drive is must-have number three, considering the very long and icy northern winters, the many dirt roads (including ours), and the hilly terrain near our home.  Finally, considering the exorbitant amount of driving we do just to go even grocery shopping living out here, thirty miles from nowhere, decent mileage is the last imperative criteria.   After that it’s all gravy … looks, environmental friendliness, luxury options like an MP3 input jack or whatever my little heart desires.

Of course I can drool over any of the top of the line autos that fulfill that requirement, but the budget is more prosaic.  As is, it will probably be a solid year before we even have enough cash saved up that, combined with the sale of my now sad-looking, but hard-working CR-V, I can afford to take the plunge.  But in the meantime, on a lazy, snowy Saturday morning, it is the perfect diversion.

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2012 Pictures

I was scrolling through this year’s photos this morning and wanted to share a few good ones:

Cecily in Alaska this past summer.

Cecily in Alaska this past summer.


Cecily is my world traveler.  She is so interested in all things cultural and geographic!  She has asked for a world map to hang on her wall for Christmas.  She took a missions trip to Honduras in 2011, and her trip to Alaska with her Dad this summer only served to whet her appetite.  She announced recently that she thinks she might like to go to college in England, and is trying to finish her high school curriculum by the end of her Sophomore year so she can go all the sooner.   She currently studies French and Chinese, and was disappointed that I wouldn’t let her take up Arabic, Gaelic, and Swedish at the same time.  “One at a time,”  I told her.  She can study as many as she wants simultaneously, but she can only begin a new language one at a time.  As second semester approaches, I expect she’ll ask to add one of the others!


This is my good-looking hot tamale, Jesse!  Woot, woot!

This is my good-looking hot tamale, Jesse! Woot, woot!


Perhaps Cecily gets her love of travel from her Dad.  I do love to travel, but Jesse even more so.  He has longed to return to Alaska since he worked there twenty years ago.  Jess wants to see the United States and Mexico, Central America, and parts of Europe.  And he probably will.


Back row, L-R:  Steve Hanley, Jesse, Chelsea Daniels, Marty Lahey, JJ Lahey.  Front row, L-R: Cecily, Danny, me.

Back row, L-R: Steve Hanley, Jesse, Chelsea Daniels, Marty Lahey, JJ Lahey. Front row, L-R: Cecily, Danny, me.


We recently took our annual family photo to send along with our Christmas cards.  When we were all done with the pretty smiles we did a goofy face.  I posted it on my personal facebook page and got tons of likes and comments (actually they’re still coming a week later).  I was kind of surprised that it was such a hit.  We almost always take “goofy” pictures after we take our serious poses.  This was after the Mark Mellon Triathlon in July.  Just being our usual goofy selves!  I love having fun with my family!

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