Going, Going, Gone

The old house has finally come down.

How well I remember the first time I laid eyes on that old farmhouse!

We had seen the ad for the farmstead in the Sunday paper and had driven two hours with three kiddos under of the age of five to check it out.

We went around the curb, down a hill, up the other side and turned into the driveway.

No. Please no.

It was ugly, tired, saggy and wind blown after a century of sitting on the hill. A horrible 1960’s renovation had removed most of it’s former glory and the farm crisis in the 80’s left it vacant for awhile. Thankfully, it had indoor plumbing – although some of it was a garden hose. The only heat was a wood stove and the floor had a definite slant.

But my husband reminded me that while houses change – the land doesn’t.

And the land was beautiful! Rolling hills, ravines, a farm pond. Beautiful views in every direction! Just what we dreamed of!

We bought it, named it the hovel and moved in.

It sheltered us for more years than I care to remember while we worked on our dream house. Cold winters with frozen pipes. Hot summers canning in the kitchen with mud daubers buzzing around my head.

It was an exciting day when the new house was finished and we could finally move in!

The old farm house has sat empty now for several years.  Every year we said it would have to come down. But year after year other projects were more necessary and there just wasn’t time.

Until this year.

We started August 4th. Piece by piece it came down. Starting with the lathe and plaster.

Windows. Doors.

Then the roof and the second story.

Burning everything we could. What didn’t burn went in a dumpster.

The kids all pitched it. Peter even brought his Bible Study group down to help.

We paused in wonder at the workmanship of one section, and shook our heads in disbelief at the haphazard construction of a later addition.

Almost every day I had a different view.

It was going, going, and then gone.

We saved whatever wood we could and the limestone rock that made the foundation will soon line my flower beds. We had already used much of the trim in our new house.

All that’s left is a dent in the ground.

And the memories.

It was a huge job that we dreaded for years. It’s a wonderful feeling to know it’s done!


Fresh Gravel

DSC_0018There are a few realities that those of us who live beyond the pavement have to accept as a part of life.

Important things – like fresh gravel.

One might think that fresh gravel would be a good thing, after all it fills in holes and those nasty ruts that come after a heavy rain.

But the initiated know better. They slow down to almost Amish buggy speed on fresh gravel. They’ve learned the hard way that fresh gravel is slick.

It just lays on top of the existing surface like a pile of marbles on your living room floor. if you drive too fast it can send you flying where you don’t expect to go.

Like upside down in the ditch.

Just ask Angel Girl.

But that’s not all – they also know that fresh gravel is sharp.

Really sharp.

Like puncture a tire sharp.

As in four new tires in the last two months sharp.

So sharp we punctured a brand new tire within weeks of buying it. Weeks.

I jokingly said, “Those folks at the tire store must really love us after all the money we’ve spent there this spring!”

Then – a few days later – Angel Girl got a card in the mail. No return address but it had a local postmark. She opened it and held up a nice graduation card with a gift card inside.  She looked confused. “Who are these people?” she asked.

A quick look at the signatures made me laugh out loud.

The owners of the local tire store.

I knew they liked us!



Saturday Date Night

It was a Facebook post Saturday morning that started the adventure.

Some friends are building a home in northern Missouri and had discovered a little country church nearby. They were having a Sweetheart Dinner that night – would we like to come?

Lured by the thoughts of prime rib with all the fixings, followed by an evening of gospel music – it was an easy sell.

Jan and I drove the winding country roads of southern Iowa into the alphabetical maze of back roads the makes up northern Missouri as the sun was setting over beautiful snow covered fields.

It was so peaceful.

We found the church nestled in the hills surrounded by rolling pastures, just as it had been for the last 150 years.

This faithful congregation had been serving up a free prime rib meal and gospel music to the community every February for more than a decade.

They greeted us warmly – wayfaring strangers that we were. The conversation was lively. The company fun.

And the food! Oh my! The food was abundant, delicious, and homemade – a hunk of prime rib that covered half my plate, potatoes, salad, crescent rolls, green beans and bacon, and a table full of desserts.

Then the music began.

It was nothing professional – just some friends who played really well. A man on the banjo with his eighty something year old momma on the bass and his buddy on the guitar.

Joking. Laughing. Strumming. Singing.

It was comfortable – like being invited into someone’s living room for some music.

Gospel songs. Mountain melodies. Old Hymns.

The melodies rang out of the old church on the frosty February night.

And we were a part of it.

When the music ended – we reluctantly said our good-byes and started the 45 minute drive home, navigating those same winding roads under the light of  full moon.

The snow sparkled as we held hands, the music still ringing in our ears.

And my heart smiled.

Blackberry Picking

Just what would make my daughters don long sleeves, jeans and boots in the 100 degree heat and tropical humidity of an Iowa summer?

What would make them venture out on the four-wheeler through hay fields, over trails and into the ravines where ticks and poison ivy are rampant?


In one word – blackberries!

Luscious, sweet wild blackberries.

Last year we found the mother lode patch at the edge of the hay field and down into the ravine.

We’ve been anxiously watching them all summer long.

They are finally starting to ripen and Dagmar and Angel Girl have ventured out every other evening to pick until they get so hot their glasses steam over.

Fresh blackberry scones, blackberry pie, blackberries on ice cream, blackberries syrup on pancakes … <happy sigh>

Some things are just worth the extra effort!

Fishy, Fishy in the Brook…

Fishy, fishy in the brook, Buddy caught them with a hook….

There’s the little guy with his big catch! (Papa Jim actually caught some of them – and he did all the cleaning!)

Buddy fried them in the pan…Well…actually Buddy set the table and mashed the potatoes and cooked the green beans while Mom did most of the frying!

But Buddy did do some – he especially enjoyed dipping them in the flour and putting them in the pan.

Then Buddy shared them like a man!

It was a feast of fish thanks to Buddy and Papa! Now that’s one proud country kid!

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

pigs  fences country living After a recent walk with my husband to survey the damage done by the neighbor’s wandering pigs, I can say with all honesty…

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

I like pigs, don’t get me wrong. But boy can they make a mess fast!

They can root up a yard, a flower bed, or a garden with amazing speed! And when the ground is wet, they don’t even have to root anything – just their little hoofs will rip up the grass.

We were actually able to follow the muddy path they left from the yard, through the ditch, and all the way to the neighbors where they escaped.

<heavy sigh>

Thankfully we only lost a few plantings. They probably needed to be thinned anyway. The grass in the yard will eventually grow back.

And it wasn’t long before those wandering pigs became bacon and ham. Then the little neighbor  girl came knocking at our door with some home made fresh sausage as a peace offering.

So I guess I could also say in all honesty…

“Good sausage also makes good neighbors!”


MudIt’s officially here – the fifth season of the year.

For those of us who live in a rural area, we actually get an extra season. It comes right after winter and lasts until spring.

It’s the mud season.

The combination of melting snow and cold wet rains makes our country living messy for a few weeks.

The chickens have muddy feet and muddy feathers which in turn makes their eggs muddy after they are laid.

The gravel roads are a soggy mess we like to call gumbo. They can be slicker than the ice and snow that preceded them.

Oh, and did I mention the ruts that develop on the high spots? So deep they could blow a tire.

Those folk with livestock sure don’t appreciate this extra season. It wreaks havoc with the feeding schedule as they have to deal with muddy lanes and muddy pastures and muddy equipment.

On the way to church Sunday we saw one farmer starting to slide down hill in the mud. He got the truck in 4- wheel drive just in time to avert an accident.

But as messy as it is, and as much of a nuisance, we’re still thankful for it.

It’s this moisture that will make our pastures green and lush in a few weeks. It will fill our ponds and water our livestock.

It means the soil is good and moist. It will be ready to receive seed in a few weeks and produce a bountiful harvest.

“Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” – Hosea 6:3

Happy Birthday Angel Girl!

View from my homestead

We’re celebrating Angel girl’s 10th birthday today. (Her birthday is actually tomorrow, but because of the flooding in Des Moines, we’re celebrating a little early so Grandpa and Grandma can get back home before things get really bad.)

I remember well the events surrounding each of my children’s birth, but Angel Girl’s especially.  I was pregnant when we finally decided to make our long-awaited move to the country. Our house was on the market and my husband was making the long trip to our farm several days a week to get things ready for us. They were long, busy days.

When we finally had an offer on the house, I was concerned that the closing date was very near to my due date. My husband wasn’t worried, of course! So we signed the papers and started packing.

The day before we moved my husband took a big load down to the farm and didn’t return until about 10:30 that night. He was exhausted!

Sure enough, about 1:30 in the morning I woke him up to say it was time to call the midwife. He was so tired he replied, “We can’t call anybody now, we’ll wake them up!”

I told him that was the whole idea and I would be waiting in the car.  He took a quick shower, made the phone calls, and drove me to a friends house, where we had set up to have a home birth just in case.

Our sweet little Angel Girl was born in a hot tub at 6:30 in the morning. My husband enjoyed her for a few minutes, then headed out the door to pick up the U-Haul. He spent the next 36 hours without sleep as he packed us up and got us moved, with lots of help from family and friends.

Meanwhile, I sat like a queen holding my sweet little baby girl while someone else was watching my other three children, packing the last of my belongings and cleaning my old house.

We spent a few days at my husband’s parents to recover before driving down and starting our new life in the country in a run down old farm house with lots of dreams, a five year old, a four year old, a two year old and

a newborn.

Whew! Those we not easy days, but they were good ones. We felt so blessed. We still do.

So Angel Girl’s birthday is more than a celebration of her life with us, it also marks the beginning of our life in the country. It’s a good life and one we treasure.

Happy Birthday Angel Girl, we love you!

And Happy 10th Anniversary of Country Living, we love you, too!

Living a Quiet Life

Mossy Yard Swing

“You should also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you.” I Thess. 4:11

I used to think that living a quiet life meant living in quiet surroundings. I have since found out that that simply isn’t the case.

We live in very peaceful surroundings here in the country; no loud music blaring, no traffic (unless you count the Amish buggies and an occasional tractor). We wake up every morning to the simple sounds of the crowing of roosters, the honking of Canadian Geese, or the chirping of birds outside our windows.

Yet my life is not always quiet and peaceful.

Webster’s dictionary defines “quiet” as “being calm, untroubled, free of turmoil and agitation.”

Having a quiet life has nothing to do with my surroundings, but everything to do with my spirit.

If I want to live a quiet life, I need to be willing to give up a few things.

Things like:







Impossible expectations.


What is robbing the quiet in your life today? Don’t look around you, look within.

“Aspire to live a quiet life…”