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!

GREEK FRITTATA – CASUAL, YET ELEGANT, ONE PAN BRUNCH

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
― Confucius

As we slide into June, I cannot help thinking of growth. As a high school teacher I reflect on the strides my students have made in their growth mindset, and as a parent I cannot believe how much my own kids have learned and changed over the year. June is a time of development. The landscape becomes blissfully green and I love watching the flowers on homestead open and omit an energy of possibility and wonder.

Bleeding Hearts

It is fair to say that I am enamored with flowers. However, my husband John and I have struck a deal. He is not allowed to buy me bouquets of flowers as a gift during the year. While that may sound like a strange request from a woman who has an affinity for flowers, I make up for it in the spring and summer. It is during this time that we purchase bulbs, bushes, plants, and trees to add to our property. I am not sure if John believes it to be a gift or a curse (since he has to be more creative in his gift giving – though my birthday and our anniversary both fall in June), but I think he would agree it is pure joy to watch the transformation in our backyard each year.

Our bees love the lupine

 

In addition to finding joy in the simplicity of learning lessons from nature, we love to grow our own food. Since late April we have been harvesting greens from our hoop house for salads and smoothies. In fact, one of my favorite phrases is, “Would you like me to go gather fresh spinach for breakfast/lunch/dinner?”

In June I love the luxury of being able to make time for breakfast. On weekends we make quite an event of breaking our fast and are known to have a hearty feast in the morning. We find that a meal with staying power is important to fuel all of our farm projects. Then a light afternoon snack carries us to an early dinner.

Since we have our own hens, I have become quite creative with egg dishes. This frittata that I am sharing with you makes a fine breakfast, brunch, or lunch. Add a lovely green salad, a loaf of crusty bread, and it can even make its way onto the dinner table. Part of the beauty of it is that it can be prepared in one pan and is full of vegetables. Since the ingredients are ones that we always have in the house, it is a staple in our household.


GREEK FRITTATA FOR TWO

*5 eggs
*1/4 cup of cream or milk
*2 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes (I like to use Yukon Gold because they are mild tasting and have softer flesh so they do not take long to cook)
*1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
*1/4 cup chopped onion
*1-2 cloves chopped garlic
*2 Tablespoons lemon juice
*3 Tablespoons olive oil
*1 teaspoon oregano
*¼ cup grape or cherry tomatoes cut in ½ (could use sundried tomatoes)
*¼ cup kalamata olives
*¼ cup feta cheese
*½ cup of spinach
*Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub the potatoes well (I leave the peelings on) and cut into small cubes. Place in a glass bowl and microwave for a few minutes to speed up the cooking time. Using an oven safe pan (a well seasoned cast iron pan works great) add the potatoes, 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, garlic, onion, and mushrooms. Sautee over medium heat for 3-5 minutes (add the lemon juice, oregano, and a pinch of salt and pepper in the last minute of sautéing). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the eggs with the milk or cream and add another pinch of salt and pepper. Add the other 2 Tablespoons of oil to pan with potatoes and make sure the bottom is coated (so the frittata does not stick). Pour over the eggs. While cooking on low heat for a couple of minutes (to cook the bottom of the frittata) add the spinach, kalamata olives, tomatoes, and feta.

Put the pan in the stove and bake for 7-10 minutes. If the eggs are still runny on the top you can finish in the broiler (You can add parmesan shavings before broiling to add a golden brown color).

Remove from the oven and allow to set for a few minutes. Serve with bacon, sausage, toast or an English muffin. Fresh summer berries and Greek yogurt makes a great side to this dish.

This frittata is versatile and is also wonderful with fresh asparagus, peppery arugala, goat cheese, snips of chive from the garden, and even grated or thin slices of zucchini.

I hope that June finds you healthy, happy, and ready to tackle summer with zeal. Our family has plenty of exciting plans to help us grow as a family and individuals – including youth theatre, hockey camp(s), a home addition, and epic camping trip across the county. While you are enjoying your summer, make sure you check out my recipes on the tabs at the top of the page for plenty of healthy recipes to help fuel your activities!

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.