ThistleDew Farm

ThistleDew Farm
Established 2009

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Staining Complete!

Hurray - last night Ashley (aka The Princess) and I finished staining the siding for our lodge home. Dan was working on the electrical with his brother John, and Ron a second brother was mowing the farm! All was right with the world!

I love it when I can scratch a big project off my to do list! The bad part is I was really counting on using the excuse of staining to get out of many other projects on the pending list. Now I must tackle them.

First I need to really get creative because I have two big craft shows coming up in the next 45 days and I don't even know where my craft stuff is.

At the moment all my worldly possessions are boxed up in the garage below the structure we are building, soon to be called home. At the moment "home" is a motor home parked beside the garage aka kitchen/living room. We sleep in the motor home and do our other living in the garage. (Except for the socially unmentionables which are done in the portapottie out back - please pray for a warm winter!) We wash our laundry at Terri's (we told you this was a co-op farm.) A corner of the garage is dedicated to a small sitting/TV area and a counter for food prep. The deep freeze, fridge and microwave are also there. We use a single burner propane camping stove to round out the gourmet kitchen ensemble. It all works really well and shows how resourceful you can be when you are reduced to the bare minimum. I have so much materialistic junk...oops, stuff.

I would really like to have one of those Food Network chefs like Rachel Ray or Bobby Flay or Giada cook in my kitchen! Maybe it's more like Dinner Impossible! Your mission should you choose to accept it is to prepare in 30 minutes a scrumptious hearty meal for between 1-3 adult men (these men don't eat asparagus! and you never know how many will show up), two teenage boys (requires lots of meat), a 8 year old princess (who would like to be a vegetarian), an exhausted 30 something college student (who doesn't like fat) and me (who loves it all) using just a microwave, grill and camp stove! We also have one of those turkey fryers to use in a pinch! In case The Food Network is listening - I don't want you to use what is in my pantry - I would like a gourmet meal the likes of which I could never make on my own! If you used the crap in my cupboards it wouldn't be worth cleaning up for you all to come. I'm talking truffles, saffron, quail, Kobe beef - you know use your imagination and wow me! What we could really use around here is a shopping spree to the Fresh Market! (I love that store!!)

Here's some background on how we got to the Bohemian lifestyle or as Terri likes to call it "every hippies dream". We moved out of our rental home and onto the farm July 1st. We hope to be able to move into the house by Christmas. I say move in and not done, because by all accounts of those who have gone before us in the great home building experience you are never done building a home - I'm sure Lowe's is happy to hear that!

We are framed and in the dry, finishing up the electrical, ready to put in the HVAC and putting up the siding. The clock is ticking!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Apple Sauce or Apple Filling???

My friend gave me two bags of apples from her sister's tree. They are really small green ones but very sweet and flavorful. I decided that in addition to the other tasks I accomplished this weekend I would make applesauce from them.

I found a really easy recipe on line - just cook down the apples with a little water for about 30 minutes. Brown sugar and cinnamon to taste, then blend or food mill until smooth.

The recipe worked well except since I didn't have a food mill I decided to cook the apples down to applesauce consistency. And, my husband was about to go out to work on the house and I needed him to be the taste test for sugar since he was the main consumer. To get that accomplished I put the sugar and cinnamon in about half way through. I also cooked the apples for about an hour using a potato masher most of the time. The result was the applesauce tastes like apple filling because of the small chunks of apple. It is pretty good especially on a breakfast I needed another reason to enjoy biscuits! It is awesome warmed up served atop ice cream...see previous statement...

Anyway, good easy recipe and suitable for freezing. We'll have delicious apple filling heated up on those cold winter mornings. Try this one out - you'll love it - because it tastes good and it's easy!

The Staining Continues....

This weekend was fun packed! With the emphasis on PACKED!

Friday evening Terri sauntered up the hill and we with the assistance of a bottle of Bogle 80 - tore through about 46 boards which we are staining for the outside of our Lodge Home. It went so much quicker with the wine and gossip! Although this Bogle isn't going on the re-do list it was nice enough for the purpose.

Saturday we'd hoped to finish the staining of the siding but we got some much needed rain which kept the air to humid for the stain to dry. The next project on the To Do list was putting in a fall salad garden. Down in La Trois Belle we have two raised beds. One contains sunflowers and sweet potatoes and the other was a Three Sisters garden with squash, corn and beans. The concept worked well but we should have waited about a week between planting the sweet corn and beans. The runner beans wrapped to tightly around the corn at to early of an age and smothered the corn. We cleared the sisters bed to make way for broccoli, lettuce and spinach. The weather is just turning cool in the evenings. That time of year when you can almost smell the crisp clean frost in the air and you long for a bonfire. Well really you're longing for marshmellow s'mores. Hopefully we have about 30 days prior to that first frost coming. That should be enough time to enjoy a few salads and prolong the fresh green taste of summer.

With that project accomplished we worked our way down the driveway trimming branches and discovering an old path that led to a dilapidated bench. We cleared away the leaves and trimmed the wayward shrubs to discover that the path was lined with rocks. It was once a cute sitting area intended as a resting point on a walk to the road. Now I wouldn't trust the bench to sit on these days, but it looks cute just at the edge of the driveway half hidden, inviting you to sit a spell, relax and take life easy. What a wistful dream at this point! Perhaps it's repair is a good spring project, before you can plant but are itching to be outside. With a sense of satisfaction at finishing more than we'd intended, Terri went to study and I helped the Princess with a felting project. It was great fun.

The next morning I decided the property needed some sprucing up so I tackled the weed-eater. With one thing and another the weekly maintenance has gotten away from us a bit, although many of the weeds are in their full flowered splendor they had to go and give way to civilization. There are many spots for nature to take it's course but not the entire place! It was a larger project than expected but it sure does look beautiful all trimmed up. It gives me joy to look at a job well done!

After taming the wilderness I was informed by the Princess that it was time for a make-up session. Ashley is a big fan of putting makeup on me and I in turn apply it to her. We have been playing this game since she was two (she's eight now and I am painfully aware that soon will come a day when she won't want to play with her mom anymore. I enjoy each moment as a precious gift.) The more outlandishly fairy like the better. The process usually involves a lot of glitter, extravagant hairdo's and dangling earrings. After being suitably fairy dusted I returned to tackle a few more boards before the weekend slipped away.

One thing I've been doing as I stain the siding is add a little of whatever I'm doing to the Olympic Stain. So Friday I christened a board or two with a few drops of wine and Sunday I dusted some of the fairy dust from my cheeks onto a board. I figure there is a lot more that goes into a self made home and if drinking red wine and playing fairies makes us smile, it should put a good spirit into the house also.

Totally exhausted I dropped into bed. I had a few minutes to think before I dosed off... and I used them to reflect on how things are going. Although times are tight financially and time-wise and we must make every action count (sometimes twice) I thought overall, This Indeed Will Do!

PS - despite my best efforts to scrub the sparkles off my cheeks I still had a few attached Monday morning. It made me smile when my co-workers thought I'd been out clubbin'. Just another wild weekend at ThistleDew and I danced a jig down the hall.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Here's a great blog you should visit. She has a great idea, a drawing for some of her cool primitive crafts. I love the idea and if I ever get those boards stained I will work on creating something very cool for a give away and perpetuate her idea! Very cool Shay.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bob's Bed at ThistleDew Farm

We have a tradition at ThistleDew. Things of importance must be named.

I know, this may sound crazy to some people, but crazy is a term I've often heard associated with my way of doing things. The really crazy thing is that I have an ability to encourage others to join in my crazy schemes. If I was an unscrupulous sort I could have worked on Wall Street and been in that whole mortgage mess! Thank goodness my collusive nature is related to craft projects, rock collecting, gardening and nature adventures.

Anyway, back to Bob's Bed. The first project after closing on the house in January was to build a bed along the entrance drive. Our drive is about a half mile long. The first 1/4 mile is shared with three other families. Our actual property drive is a 50 foot section that goes through the woods to the road but it is undeveloped (25' for Terri's family and 25' for Melissa's family). We quick deeded the existing drive to share among everyone - it is cheaper to share the maintenance costs and keeps the woods more natural. So Bob's Bed is shortly after our actual purpose made drive begins winding up to the fork in the road which divides the Preast Homesteads.

The previous owners still live next to us and own about 15 of the original 50 acres they purchased 20 years ago to run a nursery and tree farm. With one thing and another they let the nursery go and about three years ago started selling portions of the property. Brian and Jane have 10 acres, the McClanahans have five acres, Terri and Ron have five acres and Dan and Melissa (that's me) have 12 acres, We all surround Steve and Sandy the original owners.

I decided that a bed needed to be where the previous owners accessed that part of the property just before the creek. Well it used to be a creek until Tennessee entered into the second straight drought year! Rain, Rain every where but not a drop on ThistleDew!

I went to Lowe's and bought some drought resistant plants - Mexican Heather, two other heathers, and a cute shrub that the leaves shimmy on. We already had Rosemary we'd started from cuttings, pansies I got from my Mom in Indiana, Tulips from Easter (I bought Tulip plants and used the flowers on the Easter Table and planted the bulbs - if the squirrels haven't eaten them all I hope to have them next year as recycles.) I was given a load of small flat rocks from my friends mother to make a perfect border (Previously they were stacked into a pile with random catus' throughout to make a southwest theme.) As I started digging and earth moving to make the bed the entire family got involved. It was so fun. Sean and Brian (two nephews), Dan, Ron, Terri, Ashley and myself. We laughed and sweat our butts off. La Trois Belles (that's Terri, Ashley and I) went to a local swanky nursery and Ashley picked out Bob. We wanted one of those shaped Spruce trees but they were $100 bucks. Ashley decided she would shape Bob a plain spruce into a topiary. Of course after he was planted she decided it was plant cruelty to trim Bob up so he stayed a small cone shaped spruce for many weeks. He since has had his neck trimmed so there is a head shape and a triangle shape for his body.

Along with Bob we have added some lemon verbena, a butterfly bush, pineapple sage, parsley(which is now loaded with monarch caterpillars), dahlias and some cool rocks.

The bed took about 4 hours with us all working on it. It was a great family project and everyone takes pride in the first sign of humanity on that part of the drive. I'll post a picture so you can say hello to Bob!

The Pella Windows are in!

Hurray, the last of the windows went in last night. They are beautiful! I'm just concerned about who is going to clean them next year!

The bad news is, the area is now clear for me to continue to stain! So tonight it's back to the grind stone and finish up the remaining 150 boards. Tomorrow I should have pictures of the window installation and also some pictures of our flower beds.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rock Hound

Have I ever mentioned that I like rocks?

Well I do, I have a thing for rocks - big, small, shiny, dull.....doesn't really matter much. I am also one of those people who see shapes in things others don't. Not in the purposely created things that are camouflaging items or that you have to "look through" to see them. I never can see those things. I once thought the Batman Movie billboard was an advertisement for paint - it looked like a yellow board that someone had poured black paint over.....that was another embarrassing moment when the truth was brought to my attention! Anyway, I see faces in clouds, shapes in rocks, objects in ceiling plaster....not everyone has this talent. My nephews don't but they are often good sports and hesitatingly agree that a particular cloud among thousands looks like a whale jumping over a jar of salsa. My daughter does see objects and frequently points out that if you look sideways you can see a seahorse playing hopscotch. My niece Tayler does also. I have on occasion been asked if I see the clown in plaid pajama's just above the horizon. Maybe it's a hereditary girl thing, I'm gonna need some grant money to research this idea more fully....

Anyway back to rocks. While stationed in Hawaii from 1997 to 2000 I first became interested in rock stacking. Some say that the Native Hawaiians stacked the rocks as religious symbols and used them to mark significant locations. I don't know if that's true but there is something inspiring about balancing rocks and the pleasure it brings just to look at them. It is soothing to the soul. We brought this tradition with us to Tennessee and have always had a rock stack near our house. Not that the rocks took on a hallowed status for us, but when we look at them we may think reverent thoughts or thoughts of good times; the rock stack makes me smile. My husband is all about free things that make me happy and I am all about using natural resources in an inventive and non-destructive way.

When we saw the property destined to become ThistleDew Farm one of the draws was an overabundance of rocks. Some would look at this as a negative, but not us. We started collecting rocks and at times had disputes over rocks the neighbors thought were there's. You see, they have a rock fetish also. Several outstanding specimens were relocated to the previous owners wilderness garden as a condition of purchase. (My husband agreed to this deal, you know I never would have parted with such a precious commodity) My brother Bob came from Indiana for Ashley (the princess)'s fifth birthday and took home several nice two foot diameter rocks to incorporate into his brick siding. (The love of rock's runs in my family.)

S0, throughout the course of our first summer on the property, prior to any construction other than a honking play set for the Princess and a fence for the horses, we (not in the royal sense, but "we" meaning Terri, Ashley and I, often referred to as La Trois Belle or the three beauties which I inadvertently wrote as La Tres Belle which might mean the very beautiful - accurate either way I think) began collecting rocks. This is where the reference to seeing shapes in inanimate objects comes in.... I have a New Hampshire rock, an anvil, a bird, a pointing arrow...all of which you'll see after you know who (Dan, the super hubby) downloads the pictures to a memory stick for me.

Then Terri has to one up me by researching about rock sculpture, where you try to make balanced works of art out of piles of rock. She had two very nice ones in her front bed. They are barely detectable now as the Elephant Ears took over - did you know those suckers grow life size? They weren't kidding when they named them Elephant Ears, definitely African Elephants not Indian! Of course that has lead to many piles of rocks throughout our gardens and even some that look pretty cool. We had to take a break from rock collecting for a while so I could get a pesky herniated disc repaired but I feel the fever hitting again. It must be something to do with the barely discernible scent of fall on the northern breeze just starting to work it's way to Tennessee. Wonder if I can convince Terri to pick up a rock each time we go for a power-walk! Hmmm....

Vertigo Saga

When I got home from work yesterday, much to my surprise there was my husband in the middle of the great room on the top rung of a step ladder, balanced on the top level of scaffolding stretching above his head to hang the ceiling fan fixture from the center beam! Then over to the side was my nephew (Terri's middle son Brian) leaning against the chaise ledge atop an extension ladder at about the 15 foot level. They renewed my queasy feeling. We talked about my daring feat of yesterday, which I was extremely proud of after which I immediately asked Brian what he was doing the next day....he readily agreed to help Uncle Dan with the east end windows and spare my life. I asked if he wasn't concerned about heights and he laughed that shy little embarrassed teenage boy laugh which I interpreted as indication that I was an out of it wimp!

I danced a jig and told Brian he had earned the coveted favored nephew status crown. It might take a bit for my other nieces and nephews to de-throne him!

The other good news was that with the scaffolding in the middle of the room and the top level using my staining boards, I was off for the evening. This is good and bad, as it just means that I have to make up for lost time this afternoon! I'll post pictures as soon as I can get my husband to download them to a memory stick, he's a busy guy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ultimate Expression of Love

Have you every had an opportunity to demonstrate how much you love someone? I'm not talking about remembering to buy flowers for a special event, I'm not talking about really going out of your way to treat your love like gold. I'm talking about a true blue self sacrificing demonstration of just how much you love someone and your willingness to put it all on the line, no matter the outcome??? Have you? Well after this weekend I have....I can honestly say I put my life on the line for love. Not only for my love, but for the project he loves.

Although I was a Marine for 23 years and did a lot of physical feats I must confess that I am uncomfortable when my feet are not planted on terra firma. I know it's crazy, I know I have a picture of me rappelling down a 30 foot tower, just me, the rope and the guy on belay that I am trusting with my life. But let me tell you, there is a great difference between being suspended in the air in a safe swiss seat controlling the guide line with a redundancy down below in case you get crazy and forget to put the break on; and standing on ancient scaffolding 25 feet up with no guard is enough to make you sick....literally!

Although our farm is a co-op so to speak and we generally share complicated tasks, especially labor intensive ones, through a trick of fate I was the only one available on Sunday to assist Dan (my hubby) with the final two rows of windows in the great room of our house in progress.

I have alternately called this area of the house a cathedral and a lodge. If it all goes wrong, we can always rent out the living room for church services and weddings! It is very tall and impressive. Originally the house was going to be two stories with the center great room's cathedral ceiling soaring up both stories. Due to financial concerns we had to take off the upper story but Dan was committed to keeping the cathedral ceiling. The man is 6'3 and has spent more than 30 years hitting his head on low door frames, hanging chandeliers and ceiling fans....all of which are now his enemy! He was determined to have space to stretch his arms skyward without risk of limb. You have to respect his decision, he's got the scars to justify it. My hindsight recommendation is that any do it yourselfer should not even consider a cathedral ceiling higher than 18 feet.

Why 18 feet? This is the height at which I can reasonably function. Although on paper the difference between 18 and 25 is only 7, it is one of those tricks of physics which makes anything above 18 feet about double the height. Although I lack scientific proof...the air must also be thinner because I could hardly breath up there. Let's just say the baby labor breathing techniques came in handy! It is hard to believe that the carefree romper that I am was reduced to near paralysis because of 7 feet! But there you have it, I have admitted to a weakness, my enemies are circling now and my super hero cape is in jeopardy. The only thing left is to prove I am in charge and can concur this fear.....

So Saturday evening my hubby says to me, "I'm gonna need you to Cowgirl up tomorrow". "Oh" I say, wondering what task he has in store for me....I'm thinking he wants me to get the lead out and finish staining the siding. I stained 42 10 inch x 15 foot boards on Saturday (only 200 more to go!) and had considerable muscular soreness mainly in my back. My love handles haven't taken this kind of abuse in ages! Well to my surprise it had nothing to do with the staining, he wanted me to help finish installing the Pella Windows. To give you an idea how big this task is - we had to make two trips to Lowe's to pick them all up. (Another reason Lowe's loves us so!) Picture the front of a lodge entirely of windows - 25 feet up, A frame shaped, that's the front of our house. Crazy, I know!

I had watched Dan and his brother John install the middle two tiers Saturday while I was staining. The scaffolding seemed to work well and they were rapidly developing a system which with each window reduced the time it took to install and seemed moderately more safe. So I laughed and said no problem....I'm game. Terri and I always get into trouble thinking we can do something we've seen somewhere else. We're even considering devoting a site to projects that we scoffed at but then didn't quite accomplish....

By morning the scaffolding and the cathedral ceiling had doubled in size. It was like one of those storybook tales in which the offensive item took on a personality of it's own and became a monster.

Taking a deep breath I climbed to the third tier and assisted as he installed the left hand triangle which completed that row. This is at the 18 foot level. I was uncomfortable but I could actually walk across the boards without holding on. I chanted my mantra, "don't look down! don't look down!" and seemed to be alright. It took about an hour to install the window. Dan helping me inside and then he scurried up the exterior extension ladder on the outside and nailed it in place. Coming down off the scaffolding, I was proud. I had looked my fear in the face and deep breathed it away! I was all powerful! Right up until Dan said, "OK, let's build the next level". My mantra changed to "I can do this" and we started to build the next tier.

My good friend Cindy's father (God rest his soul) had a construction business and we were able to borrow the scaffolding from her. The scaffolding is about 30 years old and missing several of the "x" shaped metal pipe supports. Dan made two sets from piping he had, (he's a really handy guy) but the final set needed to be made from lumber as we were out of piping. We're all about recycling at ThistleDew! Anyway we measured and adjusted and got the scaffolding together, dragged the 10"x 12 feet floorboards up to the top (me pushing from the ground and Dan hauling from above). It didn't look so bad! High yes, but definitely do'able. Ashley, the princess, was in charge of lunch and we were treated to the best PB&J sandwiches ever! No more procrastinating. Up the ladder!

I got to the top of the ladder which just reached the scaffolding floorboards which would then require me to shimmie onto the boards and stand up. Well that was the theory, I actually got some type of peculiar lockjaw type illness which affected my entire body because I couldn't let go of the ladder. I was frozen, well parts of me were frozen, the other parts were sweating profusely! Dan hollers that we can raise the ladder a few rungs to make it easier to step onto the boards. Well that unfroze me and I was down the ladder.

My next effort worked much better. I was able to step off onto the scaffolding and cling to the rafters. I had to stand there and collect myself and practice my mantra "don't look down! don't look down! It was working ok. Dan encouraged me to admire the view, but when I looked off over the trees and saw the neighbors silo three farms over, I thought I would throw up. Mostly because we were the same height!

I must admit that I was pretty useless. Dan kept saying encouraging things, like "you are doing exactly what I need you to do" and "don't worry you're doing great" know, totally useless words to distract me from the horrors going through my head. The only thing that kept me from throwing up this entire time was the thought of having to get back up on scaffolding to clean the windows, and that it would discolor the raw wood around the windows and we can't have that!

Dan hauled up a window and I kicked the cardboard off the scaffolding after he removed it from the windows. That was my first big accomplishment at this height - I say that because it required me to only hold onto the rafters with one hand. My next feat was to walk to the other end of the scaffolding, I think this took me a few minutes - it was twelve feet after all! We got the left top triangle into the hole, leveled it with the shims and then Dan left me holding the suction cup and rafter to climb up the outside. This is the part that really scared me. I am on a relatively safe all be it ancient scaffolding, terrified and my husband is climbing up 30 feet on an extension ladder propped against the roof! Watching him sway in the breeze and lean over with a 10 pound cordless screwdriver 30 feet in the air was a harrowing experience. My stomach was one giant knot. "Don't throw up you'll mess up the windows" remained my mantra. Dan made a comment about me looking a bit stressed so I blinked a few times to ensure my eyeballs wouldn't pop out and said I was fine and that it would be great if he could hurry.

I must say that my admiration for Dan increased that day. I was a ninny when he was doing things twice as scary. I noticed during the installation of the right hand upper triangle that Dan's hands were shaking a little. He was a bit nervous himself. He said you just had to do what was necessary. Dan definitely imbibes the ThistleDew attitude, he indeed will do.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The best-laid plans...

Well, I posted yesterday that I was going to Melissa's house to drink wine and stain siding. I was half right - we drank wine, but Melissa wasn't staining siding - she had just finished dinner. So, instead of staining siding, we sat on her unfinished front porch and admired the beautiful sunset while we talked about her new job (yes, she has a neat new job but I'll let her post the details, and that's why I'm filling in over here for a bit - she is getting up to speed on the ins and outs of things) and about my pediatric operating room clinical experience (I love kids but do NOT like putting them to sleep for surgery) and about life in general. And, yes, I'm in a run-on sort of mood tonight.

Then, we took a short walk and I helped a princess dry her hair (because we all know how important it is for princesses to have dry, tangle-free hair!). By the time we'd done all that, I was ready for bed. Bedtime comes early around here! And, that said, it's nearly time for bed again, so I'll close this (admittedly) short post with a simple wish for all of you - that you have good friends, good wine and lots of rest!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On Sharing a Farm....

This blog, as our readers know, is about two families sharing one farm. It isn't such a far-fetched proposition. In the current economic climate, a family might find it difficult to purchase a reasonable chunk of land alone. But, pooling resources with one or more others expands your purchasing power considerably. An added advantage is that improvement costs and labor can be divided up among the families.

The question, then, is could it work for you? Well, that depends - do you have close family or friends that would be willing to embark on a joint venture with you? Would you trust these people with part of your economic future? Because a joint purchase inevitably carries some risk, and you want to make sure that the other half (or two-thirds, or whatever) of your group consists of financially responsible people who aren't going to leave you holding the bag when it comes to the mortgage. It goes without saying that legal advice is probably not a bad idea BEFORE you set up your joint venture - you can't be too careful where your economic future is concerned.

Really, communication is the key to making this work. None of us are perfect, and miscommunications happen. We try to work things through here at Thistledew, and it helps, I think, that we all genuinely care about each other and about making this work. We want the farm to thrive and be successful, so that eventually we can open it to the public. We know that what we have here is special - and we know it isn't worth losing over poor communication.

The biggest advantage from my perspective, though, is having a built in support group and therapist right next door. Melissa and I often share a bottle of wine and hash out our problems while doing minor jobs (like weeding or watering the stock). In fact, right now I am taking a bottle of wine up to the big house where we are staining siding - Melissa will post photos soon!

So, if you're looking for a farm, and having trouble finding something that fits your needs and/or budget, consider joining forces with another family and finding something that fits you both. You'll have a built-in community, and many hands make light work!


Monday, September 15, 2008

This will do

We once had a gorgeous Boxer dog...

I was stationed in London England as a United States Marine managing the mail from the US over to the Middle East and also to the UK duty stations in 1989. My husband went back to the States for a visit with his family. It is never a good idea to leave me to my own devices. Surprises are sure to follow!

I got it in my head that we needed a Boxer now. It must be brindle and it must be a male (believe it or not on this occasion I had talked the idea over with my husband, theoretically of course and he put those stipulations on the future dog. Only he expected way in the future!) I began my search the minute he left for the airport.

This was back when Al Gore had just invented the Internet and we didn't have a computer. I purchased a Boxer Magazine and began my quest. One call leading to another as the kennels referred me across the country from kennel to kennel. Finally I found Thatledome Boxers who had a dog that met the qualifications. I hitched a ride with Tom my co-worker because our 1979 Baby Blue Chevette was not trustworthy enough for me to take it that far on my own.

Off we went through the British Country-side. This trip also introduced me to the concept of Free Range Eggs, which I thought was great! If you had too many eggs, why not give them away free especially if you were out on the range. It was an embarrassing moment when I discovered it was the chickens that were allowed to range freely, not their eggs being given for free. Anyway, I digress, you will notice that it is hard to keep me on target, which is one of the reasons I have so many adventures, anyway...

The dog I was introduced to was Oliver. So named after the Charles Dickens character because he always seemed to be begging for more food and had a hungry look about him, he never got pudgy. A very loving, affectionate Boxer. He was exactly what I was looking for and he met my husbands qualifications to boot! Bonus!

I took the little cuddlepuppie home reveling in the puppy breath and the unconditional love he showered on me. I was filled with smug satisfaction - I had an ulterior motive for getting the puppy while Dan was away. My objective was clearly in sight and easily attainable. To make this puppy love me above all others. I had two weeks to accomplish this selfish task before Dan came back to our bungalow outside London. It seemed like plenty of time.

I lavished this puppy with love. We had a great time. We bonded, we played, we ate, we laughed (at least I think he was laughing) we were best buddies for those glorious two weeks. To repay me he immediately fell in love with my husband as soon as he laid eyes on him. I swear you could see this puppy sigh with relief when he saw Dan. It is not that the puppy was unhappy with me. But the exuberance he showed my husband was nearly heartbreaking. I had failed in my mission.

That dog turned out to be one of the best friends my husband ever had. He was such a joy for thirteen years. It was not until we had Oliver for about a year that we discovered that the kennel name was not Thatle Dome, but That 'le Do Me!

I thought that was a great idea and a clever play on words. It stuck with me for the next 15 plus years. When it came time to name the farm Dan and I brainstormed and came up with a few word plays when we hit across ThistleDew pronounced This'll Do. The property we chose to make our farm was not perfect but well above average. It was a place we could make into our own. It was small enough that with a lot of effort we could realize some of our dreams and begin to form future dreams around this plot of land. To make it perfect, it was our lovely Boxer dog that the farm was named for. This indeed would do. And that's how we came by ThistleDew.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Introducing Melissa...

This is Terri - part of the other half of Thistledew farm. As you've probably read, Melissa and I are married to brothers, and we all share one small farm. I have (jokingly) named my house Clay Hill, because we haven't finished all the landscaping and the back deck looks right smack into the middle of a mound of clay. This is what happens when you decide to quit working and go back to school - there's never enough money or time for anything! Still, we're very fortunate to have what we have and to be able to raise so much of our own food.

But, I digress - my purpose in posting here tonight was to give you an insider's view of Melissa. I remember my trepidation when my husband announced that we were going to visit his brother, whose wife was a Marine. Now, my husband's family has a strong history of serving in the Marines, but a female Marine? I am ashamed to tell you what I had pictured in my head.

So, we made the long trek to Northern Idaho, to the home of my in-laws, and the woman who answered the door was really pretty, and charming, and nothing at all like what I had pictured. She had prepared some wonderful little appetizers and we visited as she worked on some cross-stitching. Not quite what I had pictured!

It wasn't long after we met that I started nursing school, and Melissa would occasionally kidnap me from my studies and we'd go visit a tea house, or a bookstore, or just go for a hike. I didn't know how much I needed the break, but she did, and she is probably what saved my sanity during that time!

Some time later, when I decided that perhaps the Army would be a good place to start my nursing career, Melissa taught me how to run two miles, how to do a proper push-up, how to spit-shine boots and how to handle being a female in a very male world. In the meantime, she taught me to crochet, to cross-stitch, and to make killer chocolate-chip cookies (although I always make mine darker than she likes!).

If you took Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart and Laura Bush and rolled them into one person, you'd almost have Melissa, but you'd have to add an extra dollop of common sense and a great sense of fun and adventure to the mix to make her really complete. So, I would encourage all of you to follow Melissa in her latest adventure - building a house with her husband and her adorable daughter in the foothills of East Tennessee. She'll post about the house, but she'll also post about the farm, about her fiber arts, about self-reliance and about our crazy adventures, because between the two of us we come up with some truly crazy ideas and almost always manage to bring them to fruition! I'll chime in occasionally to give my perspective, but for the most part, this is Melissa's home on the web. Come on in, sit for awhile. Have a cup of tea. Welcome to Thistledew Farm!


Welcome to Thistledew Farm

To acquaint you with our site will take some imagination on your part - which is apropos because that is the only thing that holds this farm together. Well that's not exactly true - there is a lot of hope, some prayers, those salty trails in front of your ears that sweat leaves and the glue in the corner of your eyes from a good cry. That is really what Thistledew is all about.

The name came about because of the hopes and dreams that we'd one day have a "gentleman's" farm but really run by girls (which is really the way of things isn't it?....behind every good man is an awesome woman). So we started out with 16 or so unkempt acres at the base of a clay foot hill with a creek running through it.

There are two families on the farm; Ron and Terri who have three sons (more about them later) and Dan and Melissa who have one daughter - who believes she is a princess. Ron and Dan are brothers which makes Melissa and Terri much more than sisters.

I am Melissa. Terri will blog on this site also. She is an amazing woman who is balancing going to UT to be a Nurse Anesthetist, managing a household, raising three boys (and a husband), killing naughty roosters for supper, raising a garden, and saving the world from stupidity. This is not easy, I can tell you that! There are a lot of naughty roosters in this world and if they knew how good they had it, they'd straighten up - but this is a hard lesson to learn. The majority of naughty roosters do not learn the lesson until a fraction of a second after the axe falls and they are running around with their head cut off. This is much to late to be committed to change!

Anyway this portion of the blog will be dedicated to the House that Lowe's built. It is dedicated to Lowe's because without them, there would be no house! We practically live there, my daughter will probably have one of those brass plaques on a cart dedicated to her name . We generally go to the one in Alcoa, Tennessee, they know my husband by name! But we have been known to travel within a 50 mile radius to pick up items absolutely necessary prior to tomorrow morning or something dreadful will happen like the house would fall apart! Which as you will hear later, actually did happen. So if my husband says at 8:58 p.m. that he needs to go to Lowe's for some obscure doogamaflopper, I no longer even bat an eye. My standard response now is "Yes Dear, what ever you think is best." For those who have built a house with your spouse, you know that you must undergo great tribulations and plagues prior to reaching this point.

If you are interested in reducing your reliance on others by becoming self-sustaining especially of food and basic necessities, herbs, recycling, going green, crafts, building a house, horseback riding, nursing, fairies, books, butterflies, princesses, hiking, yoga, drinking wine (and then doing all of the above)... then this is the place for you.