Showing posts with label the grovestead. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the grovestead. Show all posts

year one at the grovestead


We just hit our one year mark. We've been in our new house now for 365 days. In lots of ways I can't believe we've only been here a year. But in other ways I clearly know that a year has passed. Because this six day old baby I am holding here, on the day of our move, is now climbing up the stairs and pulling herself to look out the windows.


Rory and I were throwing the frisbee around last night, reflecting on year one. He commented that his biggest learning this first year was the pace of time. He said that every project he worked on (his office in the woods, building the chicken coop, getting someone to plant our field, evaporating 90 gallons of sap into maple syrup, and tilling, planting and laying drip irrigation in the garden) all felt like projects that took forever. But in looking back, it is amazing how much was accomplished in this first year. Every item on the to do list looks like a huge mountain to climb, but day by day we kept getting to the top.


I think this year will go down in the record books for me as Most Personal Growth. I'd accept that award, bawling at the microphone, blubbering on about how a baby can really throw you off a bit. I'd talk about how the move from city to country was actually a way bigger adjustment than I ever acknowledged while in the midst of the transition. I'd talk about how this winter never ended and I thought I was going crazy, and how sometimes I really, really miss our cat Toonces. And then they'd flare up the get-her-off-the-stage music, because I would have just mentioned my old cat, which took it too far.


But the other thing that comes to mind when I think about this first year in our new home is this: We have learned so much. The knowledge that Rory and I have acquired from just one year in the country is vast and amazes me. Rory learned how to build a cabin this year. Which then translated into drawing up plans for a chicken coop. Last Saturday I came home with the kids and as walked into the kitchen Rory showed us two jars of blackberry jam on the counter. He had picked the blackberries in our woods and made the jam and then canned it. I was stunned. And so inspired that I made homemade mayonnaise the next day just to keep up with my husband.


And even more than practical homesteading knowledge, I am learning about me. More specifically, my limits and where I can't pull it all off. I'm reading my Bible again. And God is being so gentle with me as he reminds me that when I am weak, he is strong. I am weary and heavy laden, but he promises rest. I feel jealous and hurt and sad, but he is forgiveness, healing and deep joy.

If you haven't cracked your Bible in a long time, go find it. There is nothing more precious in my life than my walk with Jesus.


A few nights ago Rory and I went for a walk down our road and there were so many fireflies in the ditches that it seemed like someone had strung twinkle lights up and down the road. Once I got up in the middle of the night to see if there was a car in our driveway with it's brights on. But it was the moon, leaving moon shadows all over our lawn. And if we go out on a clear night, with no moon, we can see every star in the sky. There are no city lights to interfere.

Those are the moments when I feel the most settled.


I feel really grateful to be living here. It has been an adjustment, but I know we have made the right decision. I love our farmstead and love our new life. And if you give us another year, I think we will feel fully at home.

the silver lining






My top strength is Positivity, so let's give this a whirl. On the plus side, it is the kind of snow that takes gorgeous pictures. It's the heavy stuff that won't be around for long. The perfect snow for snowmen, snow forts and snow caterpillars.

Also, we're glad that no one was in the baby swing when that big branch came down. That's a good thing. Another good thing is that we just got a chainsaw. And since we can hear lots of big branches falling out in our woods, that'll be put to good use.

And for the kids of our town, this has been a record setting year for school being cancelled. And so that's fun. Snow days are awesome.  Even my bible study was cancelled this morning, which was nice for me since Elsie was up all night with the violent flu. But she's napping now and has kept a bottle down so that's looking brighter too.

Oh, and we just completed our last batch of sap in our evaporator (pictured with the cylinder cement block chimney) so it is okay that it is covered in snow again.

All in all, it's looking like we'll spend another day on the couch, this time watching the new John Deere Tractor dvd Ivar picked out at the library last night. A lay low day, we call it.

And that's my best attempt at positivity. The bottom line: we know this stuff can't stick around for long!

so many hopes and dreams


I remember before we even found this ten acre farm, Rory was reading a book for hopeful hobby farmers. And he read a paragraph to me about how the first year you get your place you're going to want to do it all. You're going to want to take every single hope and dream you have in your head and get er done. Asap. But how this simply isn't possible. How lots of dreams on a hobby farm need to be phased in, given a multiple year plan.

But can I tell you what? This is hard to do. Oh man, it is so hard. All we do around here is talk and dream and plan. We have aerial shots of our property that we have blown up poster size, and we stick post it notes all over it with hand drawn pictures of trees for an orchard, or grass for a pasture. We have pictures of what this farm looked like forty years ago that give us a better sense of the history of this place. Rory took the above picture while going to each corner of our property and taking a picture towards the center. We want to document our place like this four times a year. Just to track the changes. And over the years, we'll be able to see all sorts of before and afters. The field pictured here is about four acres. It was corn this last year, but now we're making new dreams for this dirt. Maybe alfalfa, clover and timothy. Maybe hay or wheat. Maybe prairie grasses and wildflowers. Time will tell.

So we talk and we dream and we wonder. And you know what? It's not all going to happen in one year. That we know for sure. But as we continue to spend time outside I am certain that a whole lot is going to happen this year.

We were out in the grove yesterday and filled three big garbage bags with pop cans and trash. We pulled out an old garden hose and a broken end table. We found a lawn chair, some tires and the topper to a pickup truck. I had the loppers and was cutting a path as we worked our way deeper and deeper into the trees. And Rory was announcing each random item he found in our surprising woods.

And at the end of the day, looking at the work we had accomplished I realized that not everything will get done this year, but let me tell you something: a whole lot will.

And it's getting me excited.

a pop of color



Mara helped me decorate the Easter Egg Tree yesterday. There was a house in our old neighborhood that did this every year and I loved it. It was so cheery in the midst of a brown and grey (and this year, white) spring. The eggs are simple...I hot glued the strings to the top of the eggs. And the eggs are the kind that open but have a hinge so they stay attached if they open. We're excited for EASTER!


spring break sledding




My folks came over today with Mara, Sonna and Svea. Everyone went outside for a bit while we took turns pulling the sled. Elsie really seemed to enjoy the ride.




Mara is spending the night now for a special sleepover. When the little kids went down for their naps Mara and I decided to make chocolate milk. And when we poured the milk we were surprised by a few soggy croutons that splattered into our glasses. After a bit of investigation and recollection, it was determined that Ivar was busying himself during lunch while no one was looking. He was the only one sitting by both the salad and the nearly full gallon of milk.

Thankfully we had another gallon and had a good laugh while drinking our chocolate milk.

tapping our maple trees for syrup


We spent Saturday outside with the kids, tapping our maple trees. You might remember when we went to Murphy's Landing to learn more about making maple syrup. We did not know then that in one years time, we would be tapping our own trees!

At some point this winter we decided to give it a go and were thrilled to find a cluster of silver maple trees in our woods, as well as many in our back yard. We have tapped twelve trees so far.


Above you can see Rory drilling the hole, placing the tap and gently tapping it in. We used plastic bags with metal rims instead of the traditional bucket.


Tapping a Sugar Maple Tree from Becca Groves on Vimeo.

From the start, our maple sugar flow rate (sap) was about one drop per second. We think it might speed up as the weather gets warmer. The sugar maple sap is basically water: only 1-2% sugar content. It will take several days and maybe weeks to get enough sap to make maple syrup. After we have collected enough sap we boil off the water until it is a high enough sugar content for syrup. It can take 50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup! Now we know why the stuff is so pricey!

For the boiling process, Rory is building our own wood burning evaporator at the end of our driveway. I promise to document and share the whole process...


living on the land



Rory and I are taking a class together through University of Minnesota Extension. The class is called Living on the Land and is helping us with the practicalities of the dreams we have for our property. There are 28 of us in this class and everyone has or hopes to one day have a small hobby farm. On our first night the class discussed all the topics this series will cover: woodland management, planting an orchard, raising chickens, helpful equipment to purchase, permits for selling at a farmers market, fencing for different animals...

Rory and I spent a good chunk of time writing out the things we want to tackle this spring and summer, drawing up a master plan for our land and all the while getting so excited for every day that is ahead of us. We've got some work to do, but at the moment it looks so, so fun.


John Denver



We're enjoying a snow day here. And as always, John Denver. 

Solo by Ivar, special guest Elsie joins in at the end...

home tour: little house on the grovestead

Oh goodness. A while back I said I would do a home tour. And I've heard from a few friends saying they've been waiting for that post.

This is a good blogging lesson. Never announce you're going to do a post like this before you get it put together. Because it sort of turns the post into uninspired homework. Like I assigned work to myself. Gross. But because I'm a great student, I will follow through. E for Effort.

A few things before we begin the home tour:
1. I'm trying not to post any pics of the outside of our house.
2. I'm not a stellar photographer.
3. When we first moved in, we got a few things on the walls, bought some curtains and then I ran out of steam in the decorating. And I haven't touched a thing in months. I have hopes and dreams to bedazzle it up a bit, but for now, the downstairs is pretty empty (though full of toys).

We'll begin with our bedroom. It's the smallest in the house, and is the walk through to the nursery. It fits our bed and a hemnes secretary desk and two dressers. It is tight. And when it's not picked up, if feels quite cozy. But it works. That heart on the wall is a favorite. It reads: Together is such a nice place to be. And it is.

We make our bedroom work because we wanted Ivar to have the big room so that it could double as the playroom. Eventually he'll be joined by siblings and there is plenty of room for that. I love Ivar's room. In the afternoon it is full of sunshine and we spend a lot of time playing on the carpet.


Elsie's room can be seen here. But I did want to point out that Elsie's window is the best one to watch the garbage man every Tuesday morning, a highlight of our day, and sometimes our week.

When we first saw this house I was thrilled about all of the carpet and the side by side living rooms. In the day of hard wood floors, this is sort of funny to admit. But I love our carpet so much.


The staircase is the only woodwork original to the house. It is beautiful. The railing is super short...like really super short, but it is perfect for Ivar. And notice the door at the bottom of the stairs. That door at the bottom of the stairs used to be the front door to the house, but the lane was moved when this farmland was subdivided, and then the garage was built on the backside of the house, which is now the front side. Confused? So are we. We have real troubles saying, "in the backyard" or "in the front yard" It's not so clear with our house...

Lately when I am in this room I believe I can hear the walls saying, "paint me! paint me!" So we'll add that to the list of when-the-spirit-moves projects.

Pictured below is sort of a second living room. We think it might have been where the original kitchen was, before the addition. We first used it to house Rory's office, then it held our Christmas tree. Now I use it as a crafting space, but we are super excited to be adding a huge picture window to this room (on the couch side) and front door to our house. Currently everyone enters through our garage. Even the UPS guy. Even the Jehovah's Witness.


There are a few pictures of the kitchen here from the day my aunts came to visit. And this post is omitting the bathrooms and the laundry room because, well, they're what you'd expect.

This concludes the home tour. I appreciate it when bloggers I follow let me into their home...sort of helps set the setting for all of their storytelling. But if you thought this totally self indulgent and weird, it probably was that too.

Have a happy Monday. :)


life at the grovestead/ for the grandmas









I got a phone call from my mom saying she needed more pictures of her grandkids. So this post is dedicated to Grandma Margaret!

A few notes from the pictures above:

+Elsie loves to bounce in her exersaucer. She is getting so big! Rolling over, laughing at her brother, smiling with one goofy tooth on the bottom.

+When Ivar gets in the car he yells "Country Roads, Loud!" And as soon as John Denver is done singing that song he yells "Country Boy, Loud!"

+That pink outfit Elsie is wearing used to be mine. Donna Solomonson made it for me and now it fits my daughter. I love it so much. The top zips in the back, all the way up the hood. I love that it fits her perfectly just in time for Valentines!

+We had Annika and girls over on Martin Luther King day. It was below zero so we had a summer lovin' party. Swimsuits in the bathtub, smoothies, fresh pineapple and ants on a log for snacks, a swimsuit dance party and I may or may not have greeted them wearing my very own swim suit and dancing to Sonsurf Beach Camp, their favorite VBS cd. And that may or may not have completely startled the poor girls walking through the door.

+Sonna came over for a sleepover towards the end of Christmas break and helped me finish the stars for Elsie's room. And then she sewed this beautiful heart garland.

the city mice went to the country/ why we moved




In 2009, Rory planted tomato, green pepper and basil seeds in three pots on the porch of our apartment in Nebraska. I don't believe I would have ever thought those little seeds would be magical, but looking back, they sort of were. They set a new course for us. Because when we ate our own food...our own tomatoes on our BLT's, our own basil on bruschetta, we got really excited. I mean, really excited.

At the same time, we had good friends who had just made a bold move to California to purchase their own land with dreams of one day planting an olive orchard and maybe raising some animals. We happened to be in the area when they were looking for their new place and the hunt sort of got into our blood. Rory came home and began looking at topographical maps of Minnesota and taking road trips to scope out parts of the state.

It was all a far off dream though. Nothing that was going to happen very quickly in our minds.

Just before we had Ivar we moved back into our home on a tenth of an acre in Minneapolis and Rory began to draw up plans for his first garden. He spent the winter reading books, working and reworking the garden grid, planting a few seeds as starts in the window sill.

That winter he decided to take the month of May off as a sabbatical of sorts. He would check his email in the morning, but decided not to do any programming or computer related projects for the month. He was tired of technology and excited to start digging in the dirt.



He built his raised beds, mixed the soil, planted his seeds and began to unwind a bit. Taking the time away from his all-consuming company was a really, really good move.


That first harvest of veggies and berries was pure joy. Turns out Rory could grow things. And build things. And I started stretching my own self...finding new recipes for eggplants, canning tomatoes and making our own spaghetti sauce. This little pastime was becoming a really fun lifestyle. And we loved being outside so much.

Winter came and Rory began to modify his garden plans, staked out a third plot for more produce and suddenly half of our backyard was gardens.

Something began to shift in me during this first year of gardening. And it had to do with my husband. As Ivar and I sat out on a blanket watching Daddo, I saw Rory grow happier as he was fully engaged in something that was life giving and disconnected from his laptop. When you work for yourself it is quite easy to work all the time. And when you work from home it is nearly impossible to "leave the office." But this garden was helping.

Rory was transforming into his best version. I loved it. He was less worried. Less anxious. And he looked really good with a tan. Really good.

We continued to look at different parts of Minnesota for property. But we really didn't think the move would happen any time soon. Mostly I liked the romantic notion of a Sunday afternoon drive while we looked for properties. They were lovely mini roadtrips, with soulful conversation, dreaming together, wondering what our future would hold. Rory nearly got mauled by a farm dog on one vacant lot he was scoping out (clearly I would have been great help, able to document his mauling with my camera if need be).


I had a picture in my head of what rural home might work for us though. It was a picture of my Grandma Bredberg's farm with the yellow house. It had a big garden, a nice grove of trees with a long lane. Whenever I pictured this move, I imagined us moving there. I even inquired to my uncle about us moving there...but it was sold long ago, and the woman living there isn't moving anytime soon.

While in California on our first Ivar-less vacation, we talked more about what we hoped to get out of such a move. We started making dreams for our new life on a hobby farm. And then we got practical and specific. We sat down and we each made a list of what exactly we were looking for in a future place. My list had to do with the house (an attached garage, a kitchen that could fit a table, carpet in the living room, 3 bedrooms...) Rory's list had to do with the property (how many acres, part wooded, part tillable...) I added to my list that I would like neighbors close by and Rory tried once again to explain to me what rural meant.


Eventually we found the listing for this house. The pictures were few and left a lot out. But the description nearly perfectly matched the lists we had just shared with each other. Rory checked it out and loved the property. But he didn't know what I'd think.


In absolutely no hurry, he brought me to see the place five days later. And I kid you not, I was sold before we even turned into the drive. The Oak Trees had me at Hello. Theyhadmeathello.




I loved the town, I loved that it was a dirt road with neighbors (neighbors!). I loved the location to our families (we could have ended up a lot farther away) and I loved the house: an old 1890's farm house that was kept in great condition with lots of love and care. I loved everything about the place.

As I saw each room for the very first time I was already figuring out where to put our furniture, deciding which room would be Ivar's, which room would be the nursery. 

Forty eight hours later, this house in the country was ours. 

We moved out here with no agenda. We're not going all organic. We're not going off-grid. We're not building a bomb shelter. Our hope for this move was based around our kids wanting to raise our family with more room to run around. And we wanted a bigger backyard to plant our garden.

It's a bigger back yard, that's for sure.




So here we are. It has almost been six months and we continue to love our new life out here. And wait until you see Rory's sketches for his next garden. I believe we may have to get our hands on a tractor. I'll keep you posted.