our farm's new barn

After Rory built his home-office-in-the-woods, I did a post that included sort of a step-by-step picture tour of each part of building his cabin. I thought many times while watching this barn go up that the step-by-step picture tour of building the barn would be quite the task, but also really fun to see from start to finish.

I suppose that is my warning to you: I have a lot of pictures coming your way. It also means that if Rory and I should ever have to build a barn ourselves, we'll be able to do it given our incredibly detailed documentation.

We started talking about our needs for a barn last summer and it was about then that Rory began sketching out what all he'd like a barn to house. Every barn ever built has three main purposes: animals, workspace and storage. With those three things in mind, he began drawing up plans on his computer and handing them off to me late at night to review. (I actually think a super fun post would be to show the evolution of those plans, all winter long, as we tweaked and modified along the way.) Even Ivar caught on that drawing barns was the cool thing to do.
Over the winter, Rory brought his plans to Menards where they would take his design and use their computer system to engineer the blue prints. Rory would bring those new plans home, we'd look them over and make changes and then he'd head back to Menards to adjust the prints.

We found local contractors who specialized in pole barns, decks and patios. They were two brothers and were awesome. All summer long we talked about how grateful we were to have committed, trustworthy workers building our barn. And that really was the story all the way through. The man who came with his bulldozer to set the foundation was awesome. The man who dug the trench for the waterline, the team that came to run the electric line, the inspector, and the crew that came to pour the concrete...from start to finish we had awesome guys working on our property. All small business owning, self-employed and hard working. These guys were the real deal.

I've said it many times before, but you only build a barn every 150 years. We built this building with 150 years worth of possibilities. Some parts of the building are going to be used immediately for immediate needs. Other parts are still unknown, but given a lifetime ahead, I'm pretty sure we'll have stories and uses that will fit every nook. 

So here we go: how to build a barn in a whole lot of pictures:
It took us a long, long time to determine where to place the barn. We spent so many of our nights in April moving stakes around, holding measuring tape and moving the stakes again. And that was when it became totally apparent that the barn/shed had to go down. We saved most of the barn wood and with the help of family and friends, and a sweet little kubota tractor, it came down.
We had trees to clear out, and for a week there we had a burn pile going every afternoon.
Then the bulldozer guy showed up to lay the site pad, a fascinating job of moving tons of clay from our field, followed by sand and seven dump trucks full of something else (no idea!) that made the site pad strong.
Two deliveries were made bringing all the supplies for the entire barn. And they were set all over my lawn. The first poles were set, and the process looked so precarious I had to stop watching for a day...
Each day more and more would get done. It was a really rainy spring which would cease work because it was so muddy. But if the sun was shining, the workers were hard at it. Also, there was a week there where a cross was so obvious (front and center in the second and third pictures above) that for a while I wondered if we were building a chapel...
The siding was put on and I was so relieved we had picked the right red! You pick your color based on a 1 inch swatch in a paper brochure. These pictures show the electrical line and water line going in.
And finally, the concrete was poured everywhere except the stables. I adore this picture of Ivar and Elsie watching the action. It has been such an incredible summer of tractors and workers and excitement. 

We still have garage doors that are coming in and we will need to extend our gravel lane. But then it's time to fill the barn up. If you ask Ivar what he wants to use it for he'll tell he he really wants an alligator and a bear. Which seem about as possible as anything else at this point!
So that's the official barn tour. It was a big project, and don't anticipate we'll ever build another barn in our lifetime...so it's a good thing we love it! 

fried green tomatoes: the recipe!

I'm about to share with you my "recipe" for Fried Green Tomatoes. I use the word recipe quite loosely here because I don't think I have ever made these the same way. If you're looking for exact measures, this very well may drive you nuts. But here's the thing about making Fried Green Tomatoes. You're basically just deep frying something. Which means it's going to be good...because it has been fried in fat. So, you have that going you. You can't really mess them up.

That said, at Elsie's birthday party I had Oma Zina help me make the Fried Green Tomatoes. Oma Zina doesn't waste anything, so after she dredged the tomatoes in flour, egg, flour, egg and panko crumbs, she heavily coated one side in the egg again before laying it in the oil. And it changed everything. One side was crispy, the other side was almost battered. And man they were good. So this "recipe" is sort of a mix of Oma Zina's special touch, my years of trial and success all based on this recipe from the Neely's. (Which I have greatly simplified...)
I start out by picking my tomatoes, wanting them to be really firm, with little juice and seeds inside. I cut them about 1/2 an inch thick and using a fork, dip them in three bowls: 1)flour with seasoning salt 2)eggs with water 3)panko bread crumbs with more seasoning salt. I have a pan (usually I use my electric fry pan) with vegetable oil in it (maybe 1/3 of an inch?) heating up. I test my oil by putting a bit of panko in...if it begins to fry, it's ready. 

That said, after Oma Zina's brilliant additional dip in the egg, I started doing my dredge a little different. Now I just use 1)gluten-free flour with seasoning salt and 2)egg and water. I dip mine back and forth a few times and in the end, the tomatoes have more of a breading than an extra crispy crunch. Sort of like the difference between Colonel Sanders Original recipe and Extra Crispy at KFC. You can see the difference in these pictures: the first picture posted used panko and the pictures below were the flour and egg (batter-like) dredge.
I fry them nicely on both sides, flipping occasionally, and then salt them when they come out and let them rest on a paper towel.

Now the actual key to awesome Fried Green Tomatoes is the sauce. Again, I have always used the Neely's sauce, but it's a little involved with lots of steps. And so just this week I tried simplifying my own version, and Rory said I nailed it. Unfortunately, I don't write down measurements when I go rogue in the kitchen, so here are my best guesses:

Dipping Sauce:
1/2 c. mayonaise
1/2 c. milk
2 T. bbq sauce
3 T. apple cider vinegar (I love Bragg's brand)
2 scallions chopped up (you'll taste these more and more the longer the sauce sits in your fridge)
And I think I used a squirt of lime juice...but I'm not totally sure.

Basically it makes a creamy, zippy (the vinegar!) sauce to go with your savory tomatoes. If you want it a bit sweeter, you could add more bbq sauce or even maple syrup, I suppose. 

Like I said, you can't really botch this one. And you may or may not even like them in the end! I made my first batch this year right after I had put the kids to bed and we had just eaten an hour before that. I wasn't actually hungry, and they didn't taste as awesome as I remembered. The next time I made them for lunch, I was famished and they were everything I dreamed of! :) So eat on an empty stomach and enjoy. Happy Fried Green Tomato Season!

bit by the city-bug

We live in the most charming town. I have a friend who calls it Stars Hollow. Another who calls it Hallmark Town. It's really adorable and quaint and big enough to feel like there is something to do and somewhere to go, once you get your landmarks down. But every few months I have a little city-bug that creeps in. It's the voice in my head that reminds me how handy it was to live 10 minutes from Ikea, 15 minutes away from great museums, 5 minutes away from glorious city lakes that always had a band or movie playing.

That little city-bug tries to eat at my joy for living out in the country. And now, three years in, I know exactly what to do when she surfaces. And the remedy is actually the opposite of what I once thought. I don't go towards the city. In fact, I have learned that often that will lead to a disastrous outing...that the goal for going to the city will be thwarted by the long drive...which was the thing that made it handy to live in the city in the first place.

So I drive the other direction. Anywhere out into the country to find places and destinations I have never been. This makes for some marvelous adventures and in the end is the best way to combat the city-bug: to go find the charm of the country.

Friday the city-bug bit me hard. So I loaded up the kids, googled a nature preserve one town over that I have heard lots about and we left for an adventure. We played in the nature center for an hour, making up puppet shows, watching humming birds out the window, looking at all of the living and stuffed animals in the museum area. Then we found a new park with a huge slide and ended by visiting the town's library. I came home feeling excited with plans to return to the nature center to snowshoe in the winter and to frequent the new-to-me, but very old and charming library.

We continued our country exploration on Saturday, driving to Zumbrota to visit The Covered Bridge Park. It boasts the very last covered bridge in Minnesota and even better, it has an incredible playground that looks like a castle. It seems to be divided into age appropriate areas, so my kids stuck mostly to one section and older kids were on the other far end. The park is covered in huge trees so there is SHADE! People of the world, playgrounds are hardly ever shaded. For some reason when people plan parks they find the sunniest, tree-less space and plop their playground right in the middle. But shade is so, so welcome on hot summer days. We went out for ice cream and then visited a campground we have heard a lot about and always wanted to check out.

The benefit of the city-bug biting is that I now have four new area destinations to venture to when I'm feeling far away from the action. Some of them do require a bit of driving, but the beauty of the country is that there is never any traffic, the drive is beautiful (stunning lately) and I do like to throw in ice cream to break up a longer drive. That's a win-win-win.

31 weeks pregnant and growing

When we first told Ivar we were pregnant, you may remember, I explained the timing by telling him that the baby would come right about the time the combines began to work in the field. At the time (February) there was still snow on the ground, snow that needed to be melted, fields that needed to dry out, seeds that needed to planted and a few hot months to grow that corn healthy and tall. It seemed very far away, but time flies, and here we are with corn taller than my head. The only thing left is for the corn to turn yellow and then for the combines to come. (And actually, this baby will come before the combines harvest the corn, but we're just going to go with it, since the timeline has been so helpful this long...)

Yesterday marked 31 weeks for this little one inside of me. The week we found out we were pregnant with this baby, two dear friends had devastating miscarriages. Both were life-threatening for the mom's and both led to emergency surgery in the hospital. It meant that we were quiet for a long time about our own pregnancy, feeling the sorrow of their loss.  But it has also meant that I have not taken one second of this healthy pregnancy for granted. I am grateful. 

I am overwhelmingly grateful. I have a very active baby inside of me, with flips and tricks unending. At night I can watch my belly roll all around with knees and elbows and a bottom somersaulting in my womb. I don't even have to touch it to feel it, I can see the belly waves through my clothes. It is a joy, and sometimes I need to tell my baby to please tuck its elbow or knee back in, because I feel like I have an internal bruise near my belly button from something jabbing me so hard on the inside. Much of this week I have walked around gently pressing that part of my belly, trying to get that little extremity to stop hurting me.
It's also good that I am grateful to be pregnant, because I have had more hilarious comments this time around than I could ever imagine. I am bigger with this pregnancy than the other two, and people seem to have noticed (pictures posted here are flattering. It's my blog, I can crop how I want to!). A woman in a bathroom asked when I was due and when I said "end of September" her eyes got wide and she said, "Oh I thought you were due any day!" Someone else recently told me, "Based on your size, I bet you'll be early. Really early." And then there are the "you sure it's not twins?!!" 

So far these comments have just made me more amused than hurt. Amused that people still think it's okay to say these things. And I do not let these words sink in very far because the truth is right within me: I have a life growing inside of me. It is a gift. And I won't pout or fret or wish this weight away, because I am carrying a life in my womb.

The very, very best part is that the joy and excitement and love I have for this baby is as strong as the anticipation and eager expectancy that I had with Ivar and Elsie. Sometimes I just smile because I am so happy to have another baby on the way. This baby is wanted, the extra pounds will be worked off eventually, and more than anything I am grateful to be undoubtedly inhabited once again. 

I really like instagram...

I've realized lately that my "quick post blogging" has really taken a hit now that I've gotten so excited about Instagram. It's just so quick and fast to post a picture with the little story that goes with the shot. It's convenient too, right on my phone. And I love capturing my day in one or two pictures.

I know a lot of you reading don't have instagram or want an account, and I totally get that. But if you're ever wondering where I've gone and why it's been a while between posts, you can usually find me pretty consistently over on Instagram. If you look on the right column of my blog there is a section that says "Subscribe" and under that are lots of circles with different icons. If you click on the blue circle with the blue camera, it will take you directly to my instagram page. And there you will find all sorts of quick pictures with quick stories.

If you click on a specific picture, it will pop up in a bigger size with the text I wrote to go along with that picture. And then there is a little arrow on the side to help you click through to the next picture.

Just thought I'd throw this out there. There are a few readers in particular that I think might enjoy these day-to-day shots of our family and farm and I wanted to pass these instructions along to you. Enjoy!