Happy Holidays from Our Homestead. Welcome 2021!

“Dad, that thing wouldn’t fit in our yard.” -Rusty Griswold

“It’s not going in our yard, Russ. It’s going in our living room.” – Clark Griswold

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

2020 has been a challenging year and I am a reflective woman. If you have been following my posts you know that for the past couple of years, my family has been working on a construction project. We are adding a large addition onto our 130+ year old Finnish homestead. My husband John has worked tirelessly to make this dream of our comes to fruition.

I always tease John that he found the right woman who understands all of his “sweat equity” projects, because growing up, my parents did the same thing. My dad built a sawmill and milled logs from my grandparent’s property on the Paint River in Crystal Falls, Michigan to build our family a house. So when John told me that he wanted a sawmill, it made complete sense to me. I will never forget the excitement we shared when he milled that first board on the Wood-Mizer.

Last year at this time, John was shoveling snow off of the addition and this year it is thankfully all closed in. That is what I call progress!

We just purchased the last of the windows (four had to be custom ordered) and this past weekend we bought all the insulation for a walls (this spring a local company will apply spray foam insulation on the ceiling – we figured this would be a smart decision since it’s over 24 feet high).

We joke that we should probably just have our paychecks deposited to Lowes.

While Covid-19 has created a lot of setbacks, John and I feel fortunate that we have both actively been employed. As a teacher, I have been able to teach both face-to-face and remotely, and as a police officer – John has worked through the entire pandemic.

Last fall John and I made a deal that ended up being both exciting and disappointing. John had never done block-work before, but he decided to save money he would do research and do the foundation and blocks for our addition. With the money we saved we surprised the kids with a spring break trip to Maui. Unfortunately, a few days before our flight, we had to cancel due to travel restrictions. We were heartbroken. However, we were able to flip-our-trip and in July we took an incredible trip to our favorite place on earth, Alaska. John actually got to take a second trip to Alaska in September to go caribou hunting.

We are huge fans of Holiday Travel Vacations in Marquette. Laura Chapman has been our go-to travel agent for many adventures now and we cannot recommend her travel agency and services enough. Laura is down to earth, has a wealth of travel knowledge, and goes the extra mile to make sure your travel plans are perfect. We love to do business local and Laura helps us stay local – and still give ourselves the gift of travel. Find Holiday Travel here on Facebook.

We had the kids fooled that they were getting a toilet for Christmas. I thought it was so sweet that they were fine with a toilet since they knew our construction project was important. I love how surprised they were to find out there was more to their “poopy present”. I don’t think we had a clue how precious that gift of toilet paper would be in 2020. LOL

 

Can you see why this is our favorite place on earth?
My boys at Denali National Park
I took hundreds of photos.


We hope to be living in our addition by this summer, but we still wanted to celebrate the space with something special for the holiday season. John cut a 17+ foot tree down from our property (he trimmed a few feet off) and he put it up in the addition. John and his daughter Avalon trimmed the tree with lights and giant red bow (we also added a few ornaments).

Now that’s a Christmas tree!
I love this photo. Not many people have to put on their Carhartts to decorate their Christmas tree.
The loft came in handy to decorate the tree.
It’s not easy to add lights on such a giant tree.
I couldn’t find a star large enough on short notice. However, I think this bow was perfect.



We may not always do things the easy way, but we do them our way! That is what drives us and makes our hearts and souls happy. I am thankful to have found a partner who works so hard for our family. I think that we make a wonderful team and I am excited to see what 2021 brings. I promise to keep you updated on our construction project.

Best wishes from the Waldos for a healthy and happy holiday season filled with laughter and an abundance of blessings. ❤

Happy Holidays from Avalon, Amy, John, and Lukas. ❤
I finally found a use for my selfie stick! 😉
Say C H E E S E!

Making Progress: Homestead Sweet Homestead

I call architecture frozen music.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Our family is adding an addition on to our 130 year old Finnish homestead in the UP of Michigan. My hardworking husband gets a little cranky with my photo obsession. He gave me permission to document this series of progress photos.

Oh my, check this out! He installed the windows today for the window seat in our loft. 😍 These windows overlook our orchard, the hoophouse, pasture, and upper pond (which John is going to dig deeper and add a section for koi). The loft will house my library of poetry books, a sleeper sofa, a bathroom, and be a cove of creativity and relaxation.

He is a magician creating a magical space.
I get goosebumps thinking about how far we’ve come.

These windows are a wonderful source of light and joy already. Our house is dark so our addition includes a loft and lots of windows and open space.

We are going to work hard to marry the two sections. The cedar logs have been stained dark and we’re going to bring them back to their natural color (they were all harvested from our property). The new addition is not log (but we did incorporate live edge beams that John milled himself). He also milled boards on his sawmill to use as siding. He’ll add chinking to mimic the logs on the original structure.

Doing our own projects may take longer but it’s worth it in the end.

I can’t wait until this is liveable space. Our goal is by next summer. 💚

Thank you to my husband for his ceaseless energy and hard work. You are appreciated more than I can ever express.

I included this photo to show you the incredible cedar logs our house is built from. We are so fortunate to have a house with so much personality and history!

Pay Attention: Life Lessons Learned In The Kitchen

“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

-Mary Oliver

My eleven year old step son, Lukas, helped me make dinner last night, and like always, we solved the world’s problems with our deep and profound conversation. ☺️

Hello Fresh came through again with Firecracker Meatballs. 🔥We needed to change things up for meals. My boys are picky – and the novelty of the meal kits has expanded our recipe rotation.

I am a teacher and in September I was run ragged teaching both face-to-face and online with tons of extra things built into my teaching practice due to Covid. I was exhausted and couldn’t deal with having to plan meals and shop etc. In addition, my husband had to spend 5 weeks 8 hours away training his new work K9 and he was running home each weekend. So farm /household chores he normally did were left on me as well as running my step son to hockey practice up to 3 nights a week for 8 pm ice time. 😳 The meal kits saved me trips to gather groceries and saved my sanity! 😂

We started rating our recipe cards with 5 star ratings (so we know which ones to recreate with the meat and vegetables we raise). Luke gave this one an 8 and my husband John said it was more of a 9.

Lukas thought our rice needed some lime. This recipe didn’t include lime, but other HF recipes do. Of course, our veggie crisper has many limes since I love to cook with citrus. So I taught Lukas about the microplane. (Which I feel is one of the most important kitchen tools we own.)

Lukas is seriously a ray of sunshine. He is a happy-go-lucky kid who appreciates life and is full of hope and wonder.
A recurring question I get on my blog is how to zest citrus. I recommend investing in a good quality microplane. I’ve had this one for YEARS and it still zests like it did on day 1.

Lukas and I discussed how zesting citrus takes advantage of the most important part of the fruit because the essential oils are in the peel. We also discussed how this is true of many other fruits and vegetables. How the tops of carrots, beets, and turnips contain more nutrients than the part most people eat. Though, these truths have been lost on most people for convenience and convention.

We also discussed how these lessons apply to people too. How sometimes our brightest gifts are not obvious on first glance – but they are there – and those that understand and appreciate can help us develop and arrive at our potential.

It is ironic that the convenience of a meal kit brought Lukas and I to the conclusion that we need to continue to embrace the old fashioned in our lives.

In the miracle of creation there are no accidents.

We just have to pay attention. 💚

*Note – One of the things our family insists on is meals around the table. As a teacher it breaks my heart that so many of my students don’t have access to fresh, home cooked meals. Many tell me they microwave up something and head to their room for dinner. 😢

My step daughter’s friends thought it was strange that we eat three meals around the table when we’re home (or often two since we do big breakfasts to fuel us through projects and eat an early dinner). However, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

This is my husband’s new K9. His name is K9 Zepp (after my husband’s favorite rock group – Led Zeppelin). Zeppelin is a 15 month old German Shepherd from Poland and he’s a very good boy.

The Season of Light on Our Homestead

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

We did a little shopping yesterday. It’s exciting that we are at this stage. Windows and then the insulation is up next.

They may just look like windows, but to John and I they represent so much more than that. Six years ago we would have never imagined we would be in the healthy relationship that we are in now. 

We were both in a dark place. 

Then we met. We understood each other’s past in ways no one else ever would. So many similarities and connections.

We imagined where we wanted to be. We talked about it. We planned. We worked hard. Now we are making our dream home a reality. John is doing the work himself. As we plan and he builds, we are trying to honor the spirit of the Finnish homesteaders who built the main log structure of our home. John wants the new space to marry well with the old. There’s a lot of history in these log walls. It’s why he’s milled his own beams and is taking care to preserve the integrity of our home.

John gets upset at me when I post photos of our unfinished addition. He worries people will judge the lack of progress. I shake my head in disbelief. He’s moved mountains. Multi-tasking so many projects – all while training a new K9 and working through the entire pandemic. I cannot even begin to explain the work that this man does. From making sure I have what I need in my hoop house and vegetable garden to raising chickens for eggs, meat birds, and pigs. He makes sure we have wood cut and split for a backup heat source and for our sauna – and he is constantly fixing and making improvements. There is a reason I call him my Renaissance Man.

I cannot express the joy that the potential of this new living space creates. I am patiently waiting for the opportunity to decorate and give this space love and attention.

These windows will be the eyes to the new wing of our home. They will protect us from the elements and help us marvel in the beauty around us – birds, trees, rain clouds, snow squalls, sunrises, and sunsets. 

These windows are more than panes of glass. They are portals for sunshine. The light that has seeped into our lives and taken us out of the darkness.

A reminder to never lose hope. 

That sometimes we need to live the question and when you least expect it, the answer is right in front of you. 

Be patient. Wait for the light. ❤

I was adamant about the bright red roof. In this photo our neighbor was helping John dig a water and electrical line to our sauna and hoop house.
John is now working on installing windows, sheeting the end walls, and closing the addition up for the winter. He will continue to work through the winter.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. ours was quiet and peaceful. Just John, myself, and my step son.
It was my husband’s new paw-tner’s first Thanksgiving on our homestead. Welcome, K9 Zepp. Of course, all of our dogs got to sample our feast.
Apollo is our Housewolf and he’s been a little jealous of the new German Shepherd in the house. However, he’s such a good boy. We have just been lavishing him with extra praise and love.
K9 Nitro is always da bomb! He’s a rockstar and has adapted well to having a new work companion.
Then there’s King Louie. He’s fond of naps and more naps.
I’m giving myself grace in the coming year. This is as real as it gets. No filter, pandemic hair, and all. I’m welcoming my 50th year around the sun with wild abandon. ❤
We are always thankful. We have so many blessings to count.

Be patient. Wait for the light. ☀️
💚🏠💚 See Less


					

Goal Setting: Making Human Connections in the Classroom — Glitter and Dog Hair

If you would have told me back in the middle of March when we closed up our school buildings due to a rising pandemic that our lives would still not be back to normal by October, I would not have believed you. Though, what does that mean anymore? While I admit that I am growing tired of the phrase, “The new normal” – doing things differently than we did before may be a reality that we are facing. Also, because I try to be a glass half full sort of person, maybe adapting and changing some aspects of our lives is not necessarily a bad thing.

Goal Setting: Making Human Connections in the Classroom — Glitter and Dog Hair

Hunger Moon — Glitter and Dog Hair

I am haunted by words. I am hungry for metaphors. I am constantly searching for ways to express the thoughts that linger in my head. I have a thirst to find meaning. I am always looking for new ways to express my voice. As a high school English teacher I make a living out of […]

Hunger Moon — Glitter and Dog Hair

Sister Blog: Glitter and Dog Hair

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”
Osho

Skandia Sky

My life took a drastic turn a few years ago when I met my husband John and fell in love with him and his two beautiful children. While I adore our busy life, I have found that I neglect to make time for my own creativity. While I love posting my recipes here — I decided to start a sister blog to dedicate to creative writing. Don’t worry, I will still post here — but my new blog is my challenge to honor my creative impulses and connect with my inner artist. I will document my world — whether I am tending to the kale in our hoop house, canning tomatoes in our 130 year old log kitchen, watching our kids practice hockey on the rink, spending time with the chickens or our pack of dogs, or traveling to the wilds of Alaska (where we hope to retire one day).

The title of the blog, Glitter and Dog Hair, was inspired by my step daughter Avalon. As a bright middle school student, her grades are important to her. After buying supplies for a science project she promised me that she would apply the bright turquoise glitter that I bought outside (and not inside our tiny house). Needless to say, that did not happen. My husband discovered the mess before me and made sure to calm me before I could react (her science project was spectacular after all). Ultimately, we shook our heads and laughed — my husband shrugged his shoulders and responded, “Our life is composed of glitter and dog hair, Darling!” Throw in a few chicken feathers and stinky hockey equipment and that sums it up perfectly.  Becoming a step mom at 44 was not an easy task. While the beauty made me fall in love, I am learning to embrace the messy parts too. In fact, I would not change our life for anything.

While I am frustrated that I am not actively writing stories and poems. Perhaps it is because I am on creative overload — there is inspiration everywhere that I look. I hope my creative pursuits and prompts help you, or someone you know, discover your voices. Our words matter. ❤ Also, follow along on Instagram and Facebook. Thank you!

The Sweet Spot

“Good, old-fashioned ways keep hearts sweet, heads sane, hands busy.”
―Louise May Alcott

It is true that I shocked a lot of people a few years ago when I made a major lifestyle switch. A new name. Step kids. Yet, the most shocking revelation to many was that I made residence on a farm. When I reconnect with former students and old friends they often chuckle to learn that I am embracing my current crazy-chicken-lady status with wild abandon. Though, honestly, I think that my bond to nature has always run deep. I was born and raised in the UP of Michigan by hard-working parents who built a house with their bare hands (I am not kidding either. My father built his own sawmill and skidded and milled all of the lumber and built the entire house from the foundation up). When I met John, even though we are vastly different, not only did I instantly realize that he had my dad’s work ethic, but we had a lot of things in common. We both desired a life that incorporated tranquility, old-fashioned values, and a link with nature. Not to mention the synchronicity that was playing out in all of our lives. John, the kids, and I – came into each other’s lives at the perfect time. We made an instant connection. We needed each other.

I think often of the original homesteaders who cleared our land and built our home with trees cut from the property (the original section of our house is over 125 years old). When exploring our property you will find fences made from heaps of stones EVERYWHERE. The same stones that they toiled to remove, we now use to landscape the two ponds that John built, as well as repurpose for our flower beds and around the pool. I honor their hard work and feel that using these rocks give our projects more significance – it gives them a story.

My Renaissance Man John pensive in thought.

We are thankful for the rocks for landscaping.

I wonder how many years ago the apple trees in our orchard were planted? The trees give the landscape a personality. I watch them travel from each season and I feel moved by their beauty. The first hint of rosy buds takes my breath away. Their branches move from bony winter to startling green – then the most dizzying display of white and pink ruffled blossoms until their grand display – boughs drooping and heavy with fruit. The orchard shade is often where we pull up chairs to take a quick break from working in the hoop house. It is here that Lukas takes joy in being able to pop an icy root beer (kept just for him in the shop refrigerator) though he is always ready to share that first sip (he is a sweet and thoughtful boy). Were these trees planted in hopes that their canopy would someday provide shelter as well as fruit? Did the people who planted them rest like we do and marvel in the serenity around them? Did they listen to the haunting cry of the cranes and feel wistful when the sky aches green after a thunderstorm like I do?

Our apple trees were loaded with blossoms this spring.

The apple trees provide a lovely shady spot when we need to pause from a project.

Mid-summer the apples start to get big.

Rosy autumn apples.

The trees barren and waiting for spring.

Someday long after we are gone, will the owners of this farm wonder about us? Will they question who planted the peach and cherry trees, the blueberry bushes, the grapes, and the masses of tulips, daffodils, lilies, roses, and gladioli?

I have always wanted a front porch. Therefore, I was charmed the first time I visited John and saw his beautiful log home, with a covered porch. Now it’s “our home” – our happy place. It was thrilling last summer to close on our mortgage and become farm and home owners together. Our hard work is a legacy that we want to pass on to Avalon and Lukas.
The winters in the UP are fierce, which makes our summers twice as sweet. I feel it is my responsibility to soak up every moment of bliss in the summer and I have found that our porch is the perfect place to relax with lazy dogs (not Meesha – the youngest of our two German Shepherds – she will continually drop her throw toy at your feet).

Meesha ❤

Mid afternoon is best when the breezes blow (as a teacher I am afforded and thankful for this luxury). Early mornings and at dusk the zombie mosquitos tend to attack. Yet I’ve been known to enjoy a cup of morning coffee (though I prefer one of the ponds as a backdrop with our three clambering ducks: Lucky, Dante, and Beatrice) or a cold drink at night (usually while John is still working hard on a project).

Last summer I painted the rocking chairs bright red. I also love adding color with pots and collected treasures. In the summer I haul out the house plants, and because I am thrifty, I winter the ferns and geraniums. Last year I potted hostas in pots and they did lovely on the porch that gets plenty of shade. I then planted them around the pool in the fall (there’s always a spot for a hosta).


John can’t look at the porch without thinking it needs to be power washed. Yes, our hens free range across the porch in the morning. Though, there’s only so many hours in the day. Plus, it’s the imperfections that make life worth living. A reminder that life is beautiful in spite of flaws – temporal and fleeting – but worth savoring and working hard for our dreams.
July is the sweet spot of summer since we are set free of time commitments (softball/baseball games and youth theatre). Last July we were truly able to surrender to family dinners, home projects, the backyard fire pit, and star-gazing.

This year July will be different since we are planning a large-scale home addition (doubling the size of our living quarters) and we are also planning a long-awaited vacation to Alaska with Avalon and Lukas. My husband reminds me so much of my father and he can build anything. I am excited to watch our living space grow and eagerly await the memories that we create as a family.

It is almost February, and the snow continues to gleam – a white and frosty landscape as far as the eye can see. Until then, our porch awaits. A character in our story. A graceful reminder of when people lived their lives outside. The reason why John and I fell in love and are committed to work hard together to create a life worth putting all of our eggs into one basket. ❤

Remi and Meesha our loyal companions.

Putting all our eggs in one basket. ❤

Unconditional: A Father’s Love

“The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.” 
― Antoine François Prévost d’Exiles  

John and Lukas at the Lakeview Arena in Marquette, Michigan.

I call this series of photos from Christmas day 2017, “Unconditional Love.”

We have had subzero temperatures in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but that has not stopped my husband John from building an ice rink in our backyard for Lukas. While Lukas has ice time twice a week at the Lakeview Arena in Marquette, Michigan – what little boy doesn’t dream of having his own backyard rink?

The ice rink is on the side of the apple orchard. Next year we will find a more permanent location. We have plenty of room on our farm.


I watched him, like countless time before, from the warmth of our home. He didn’t know I was watching. The light this early evening was brilliant and the air was crystal cold. Most people would be inside, but not him. The chickens needed water and the ice rink needed another layer from the garden hose. 

A labor of love. Love of his children, nature, and animals. An artist, not taming the wildness of Michigan, but helping to transform it into something even more beautiful.

Our life is not perfect. We have moments – we have trials and tribulations. Sometimes our present is dictated by past mistakes we have made. Yet, the future is ours to weave out of the wilderness of our hearts. Fresh open spaces. Raw and real.

It is moments like this that I try to capture. When I tell the kids to come to the window and watch with me. Moments like this that I pray that Avalon and Lukas remember. The things that their dad does out of unconditional love in even bitter conditions. His hope that their life is rich – and honest – and simple – and full of wild, beauty.

A life carved out of ice, sunshine, rocks, green spaces, branches, wagging tails, flocks of birds, and love. 

Sometimes we make mistakes and have to say “I’m Sorry.” Sometimes we have to push past the pain and try again.

Unconditionally. We are proud to call this resourceful, Renaissance man ours. Thank you for the legacy you are crafting.

You can see his breath in this photo. Cold!

Our German Shepherd Meesha is John’s loyal helper.

There’s always time for a game of fetch.

John’s Christmas present from Avalon, Lukas, and I. He loves it!

I ordered the watch from Eli Adams Jewelers. It’s gorgeous and their customer service was excellent.

Lukas ❤

 

Ollie has been keeping close to the house, but he loves to roll around in the snow. He’s an old dude, but is the most loyal buddy!

Remi watching the kids tear into their Christmas gifts.

John modeling his hockey gear with Dad.

Our Story

“I don’t know what rituals my kids will carry into adulthood, whether they’ll grow up attached to homemade pizza on Friday nights, or the scent of peppers roasting over a fire, or what. I do know that flavors work their own ways under the skin, into the heart of longing. Where my kids are concerned I find myself hoping for the simplest things: that if someday they crave orchards where their kids can climb into the branches and steal apples, the world will have trees enough with arms to receive them.”
-Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

 

Shakespeare our rooster and one of his girls.

Summer is here and it has been wonderful to the Waldos so far. Year #16 of teaching is in the books and I have been blissfully enjoying mornings of reflection. June translated to a cup of coffee, sleeping kids, snoring dogs, and the fragrance of lilacs and apple blossoms in our tiny, cozy home. I am recharging for the new school year by filling the well with the beauty around me. My focus this summer will be growth – in the garden, in my writing, and in continuing to develop myself as a wife, mother, and teacher.

Our apple trees were loaded with blossoms this spring.

It is going to be a great year for apples!

John and I had have come so far in our time together. Wednesday, June 7, 2017 was a huge financial milestone for us as we closed on our refinance/home mortgage. Yes, the farm is officially ours! Our loan officer at the credit union praised us for what we’ve done with our credit score in our time together. How wonderful it feels for us to finally find a partner who is on the same page with work ethic and commitment to a career and the future. We will continue to work on our financial health together and teach Avalon and Lukas how to be resourceful, penny wise, and independent.

While nothing is perfect, and we have our moments (we are both set In our ways) I am thankful to be building a life with a man who puts providing for his family, and our safety, as his priority. I can’t stress enough how hard John works. Both in his profession and his personal life. Our home is a labor of love – demonstrated by the sweat equity he has put into our land. While the appraisal showed us a dollar amount – the legacy we have to hand down to the kids, because of his steadfastness, is priceless.

Thank you, John for strength in the face of adversity. While many people would have raised the white flag in defeat – you stood your ground to keep
this beautiful farm and give Avalon and Lukas a safe and secure childhood. In doing so you are providing them with the opportunity to learn about the delicate balance of nature, see where their food comes from, and sustainability.

Thank you for allowing me to be part of your world. In a few weeks we celebrate the two year anniversary of our marriage – but in reality – we’ve been searching all our lives for each other. Corny? Yes, but true.

How thankful we are to the family and friends/co-workers who have helped us in countless ways. Through turmoil, heartache, and divorce and onto fresh starts – our network of support has uplifted and kept us going. ♥️

I know we will encounter rough patches, but we are a team. I’m ready for the next chapter of our adventure. After signing the mountain of paper work in June the world looks different. The focus is clearer and the colors are richer. Home has a new definition for me – and I am ready to stretch and fortify our roots together. 🌱🌱🌱

I’ve always believed that dreams combined with hard work pays off – no matter your age. I love John, Avalon, and Lukas. I love our story. 

John is adding a new pond, complete with a rushing river, to our property.

My pensive and talented husband. He truly is a landscape artist.

Check out our GIANT metal rooster. I named him Apollo.

We adopted a duck named Lucky. She was rescued by the daughter of one of my friends. Lucky loves her new pond! Lukas loves her.

Lupine. June was a rainy month and my gardens and flowers are flourishing.

Our new hoop house is our pride and joy!

July 1st we harvested broccoli and peas. We started harvesting lettuce in June.

Happy kids enjoying the pool!

Our apple orchard. Home Sweet Home. ❤

 

Our family picture taken at the Pigs-N-Heat Charity Hockey Game in 2017.