All work and no play . . . is just no fun!!!

Before moving forward, I must jump back for a moment.  In my first post, I mentioned that we started camping many years ago with our two young daughters.  Those daughters are now 27 and 25.  Fifteen years ago, our family was blessed with a third child, Henry.  I laugh to myself as I type “third” because, in Ireland, where our family traveled in the summer of 2014, they only pronounce the “T” sound in most “TH” words.  From then on, we have teasingly and affectionately called him our tird child!
The summer of 2012, our first summer as farm owners, was grueling.  Imagine spending hours pulling overgrown weeds and rusted barbed wire fencing on a hot summer day (with long sleeves and long pants!), only to find that you have pulled out 50 yards but still have several hundred more yards to go!  Installing a post and board fence, complete with a custom gate and ranch style entry (made by my talented husband), was the very next job.  Old fence out, new and improved fence in.
There were many days and jobs like this, taking only the occasional break for a picnic or a cold beverage.  All of this work was accomplished on the weekends since we both have paying day jobs and our son had, and has, his own activities that keep us all busy.
One thing I learned is that in the country, and on a farm in particular, you have to take the weather much more seriously.  If it rained all week long, there is little that you can do on the weekend because everything is still waterlogged.  Since there is much less topsoil than the standard lawn, the water doesn’t drain as well and the ground holds the water.  If you had planned on moving dirt, for example, your plans just got changed.  Another thing that Stuart and I discovered early on is that time is different in the country.  “I’ll be there on Monday,” doesn’t necessarily mean the next Monday.  And even if it does mean next Monday, if the person you have hired to come help you out has their own farm, your work just got put on the back burner if their cows got out or their barn door broke.  It seems as though we spend a lot of time waiting, but it is the way of things in the country.
One of our first new friends was a man named Tommy Smith.  Tommy is retired from road construction and has his own farm nearby.  He has just about every piece of heavy equipment you can imagine, this is one of his.  
 He has helped us reroute and regrade our driveway to make it accessible for cars, rather than just for trucks or four wheel drive vehicles;  excavate our small pond, 15;  level out our field;  clear the terrain for and dam up our large pond;  create a septic pond (which he promised wouldn’t smell – so far, so good);  and I’m sure countless other things that I am currently forgetting.  In addition to being an expert in farm construction, Tommy has also served as a kind and wise mentor to Stuart.  We will forever be grateful for Tommy!
Summer 2013 at the farm was a combination of work and play, much more my style!  Projects that summer included:  building our pavilion on 15,
beginning construction on a tree house,
carving out a space for the future large pond, erecting a dock for that pond, creating better drainage on the driveway,
and a few other things I probably have neglected to mention.  Luckily Stuart will remind me as soon as he reads this!  But we also had the chance to enjoy the farm a lot more that summer.  We had lots of picnics at the pavilion, camp outs with our son and his friends,
target shooting,
and the occasional lazy afternoon reading a book in a camping chair while watching Henry splash around in the water at 15.
A friend recently asked me to include recipes every once in a while, so here goes!  The following recipe is one of our family favorites when camping.  We named it after Clifftop, West Virginia, a frequented camping spot.
Clifftop Casserole
1 cup brown rice
3 + cups beef broth
1 large onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1 cup celery chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
2 cups canned tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
shredded cheese
Cook the rice with 3 cups of broth in a heavy pan over a camp stove or fire until down.  Remove to a bowl temporarily.  In the same pan, brown beef and then the vegetables.  Add the tomatoes, cooked rice and seasonings.  Cover and cook over a low flame for 30 minutes or so until the flavors have blended (add broth as needed).  Serve with shredded cheese.  You can serve a salad and bread with it, but it’s got pretty much all of the food groups in one pot!
One of the other fun things we began to do is to choose the location for our cabin and design how it would look.  Although we had been collecting books, articles, and photos of our favorite cabin ideas, we had not seriously looked at architectural plans.  We knew we wanted 3 – 4 bedrooms, a loft, a great room that encompassed family room, kitchen and dining, porches, porches, and more porches, but we had no specifics.  An authentic log cabin made of big round logs with chinking between, a stone foundation and stone fireplace is what I had in my head, but we soon found out after a bit of research, that some of those things were either too expensive and / or too energy inefficient for us.  Lots of investigation and some local home and garden expos led us to our perfect solution.  There are lots of cabin builders and products out there.  The one that made sense for us is a company located not far from us called Countrymark Log Homes which specializes in hybrid log homes.  Hybrid log homes utilize standard stick built construction with hand hewn logs on the exterior and interior.  Ed and Christine Demaree, who are the owner operators, are extremely kind and patient people.  They spent countless hours with us pouring over ideas, reworking and modifying plans, fielding millions of questions, and ultimately helping us design our dream cabin!  In my opinion, if their product suits your tastes, they are the perfect company.  They have lots of plans that they can customize for you, and they will do anything from sell the construction drawings and materials only, to help you find subcontractors, to doing everything from start to finish if you desire.  Did I mention that they are very patient?  We started working with them a full three years before we actually began construction!
Stay tuned!