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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review: 7 reasons why you should read "The Bucolic Plague"

 
"The Bucolic Plague" by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

1. This is an easy-to-read book that makes it's 300 pages look simple.  Heck, I finished it in 8 days!
2.  It is funny and you can almost guarantee a laugh in each chapter.
3.  What stories are better than start-up your own business kinds? 
4.  The book outlines a relationship that grows more tumultuous over time and it doesn't always present the "Happily Ever After" manta throughout.
5.  As the author points out many times, life is a dichotomy between the 'Oprah' way to life and 'Martha Stewart's'.
6.  If you order online through Beekman 1802 you can get a personalized, autographed copy.
7.  Zombie flies, haunted mansions, a herd of goats, and the undying yearn to define the word Bucolic.

This is a must read, I encourage you to give it a try!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Alpaca Visit = Success!

Today we made a twenty minute drive to Raymond, NE and met a nice family who is selling the two male alpacas we are interested in: Phantom and _________.  The man from Craigslist (we named him Craig) was very nice and was incredibly helpful with answering our many questions.  The thing I liked the best about this family is they are just three years ahead of us, so to speak.  They moved out of the city to the country and although they work in Lincoln, they use their land.  Including the 15 alpaca they had, they had 3 miniature donkey and 26 chickens.  We even purchased a dozen eggs! 

Phantom is a 2 year old male and has a mask on his face, which makes him pretty unique.  _______ is the youngest and is around a year old.  While I was trying to take pictures of him he would hide behind the females.  He is small and brown with very hair legs.  He does have a name but Craig didn't know it off the top of his head.  He said we could rename them, but I think we'll keep Phantom.

Any suggestions for naming the little guy?  The front-runners include Raul (from Phantom of the Opera), Buzz (Ayla's favorite Toy Story character) or maybe Tate.  We will likely pick them up on July 7 (our 4 year anniversary!).

Phantom
Buzz? Tate? Have any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Top 5 Tuesday #2

Every Tuesday we will post a Top 5 list.  The content of these lists may or may not relate to the typical blog content.  The list won't necessarily adhere to the Top 5 in order of "best to worst".  We hope this will become a mainstay here on the blog and that people enjoy it!

This week's Top 5 List
The best television shows to debut between 1994-2005.
 We will go David Letterman style on this post working our way from #5-1.
5. "THE OFFICE" (2005- )  Michael Scott, Dwight, Jim, Pam, Jim+Pam, Nard-dog, and many more.  Although it may be losing relevancy as Steve Carrell has left the show, very few would argue that it definitely helped define the last six years of pop culture (how many "That's what she said" jokes have you heard/made since 2005?)  It is a great show and I hope the next season is strong despite there being no Michael Scott.

4. "ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT" (2003-2006)
This one was tough to place #4 behind HIMYM, the reasoning has to do with longevity which is directly related to mass popularity.  Although maybe that statement is irrelevant as the show has gained more of a fan base since cancellation.  In fact, it is confirmed that in 2012 they are making a movie that hopefully gives the show a better conclusion.

3. "HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER" (2005- )
Still on TV, this show's clever premise centers around New York City architect Ted Mosby telling the story of how he met his wife to his children in the year 2030.  He is surrounded by an awesome cast that includes Jason Segel as Marshall, Alison Hannigan as Lily, Cobie Smulders as Robin and everyone's favorite Neil Patrick Harris as Barney.  It is a must see and never ceases to amaze with it's clever story telling techniques!

2. "FRIENDS" (1994-2004)
"I'll be there for you, because you're there for me too...!" Awesome cast, awesome show, great humor.  This will stand the test of time and clearly is on any sane person's top 5.  I don't need to say much else, the show fends for itself without the use of any words on my end.



1. "LOST" (2004-2010)
"We either live together or we're gonna die alone"
"Waaaaaalt"
"4,8,15,16,23,42"
"Are you a man of science or a man of faith?"

...And we are just scratching the surface.  ABC's hit drama deceptively tells the story of how plane-crash survivors must learn to co-exist on a mysterious island, but all along there is a much grander scheme going on.  Any Lostie knows that trying to explain this show to a Neo-Lostie requires hours of time so the best advice I can give to anyone unfamiliar with the show is watch it: NOW.  Buy the DVDs (Blu-rays), hulu, whatever you need to do, you do not want to miss out on this amazing television phenomenon.  

Agree with this list?  Did we forget any shows?  There are so many possibilities!

Alpaca Update

Amy and I were going to meet Phantom and ______ yesterday with Craig, but Craig wrote us an email explaining that the Sunday night storm flooded his land and he needed some time to get everything back on track.  So, Wednesday morning we are going to meet them.  Thanks for the questions about it!

Up next: Top 5 Tuesday
(lancastersedge@hotmail.com)

Monday, June 27, 2011

4 ways to spend 3 hours

That storm last night blew these branches down!

1. Play a board game
2. Go on a romantic stroll alongside the corn
3. Watch television
4. Using "city boy" tools, hack at a massive tree limb that fell by the barn sometime during last night's storm (see the 'We're Stupid' post for more information).

If you selected option 4, then you have made the same choice I did Monday afternoon.  It was a long and arduous process, but in the end I hacked the tree to bits.  I did leave with a sense of accomplishment, but also some sore forearm muscles.  All using a hatchet and hand saw that was meant for the type of wood you buy at a lumber store.  Here are some pictures of my fun times.
    
These weak city boy tools got the job done!




   







I filled 5 carts full of branches!

We're Stupid.

All day Sunday the weather was weird.  All morning until around 2 in the afternoon it was a dreary and wet day.  There wasn't any rain, but the grayness of the clouds suggested rain was possible.  Around 2 in the afternoon everything had changed.  The sun came out and it was humid...really humid.  However, because it was so moderately tempered in the morning hours nearly all of our first floor windows remained open.

At 6 we left to go eat dinner with family and we left under sunny skies.  Since we live west of Lincoln, storms will naturally hit us before Lincoln, but we didn't see anything on the horizon nor did we check any weather stations or websites before we left for dinner.  Sure enough at 8:30 the rain gods unleashed a downpour that was so furious our deck furniture is not at the same position we left it in this morning.  And of course....

Our house was wet, very wet.  Any window that is facing the north or east side had plenty of water flood in.  The carpet is wet, the kitchen had a puddle that was over 6 feet wide and the amount of water that came in through the north windows seeped into the basement as you can see in the pictures.  All that can be said is....we're stupid.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

1000 visits in 2 weeks!

Dear Edge Fans,

  We are extremely pleased to announce that in less than two weeks over 1000 visitors have come to this blog.  We are pleased and humbled that so many care about us and our journey.  It is my hope that you are enjoying what you are reading and that you will be inspired to create more of a dialogue with us, especially if you have questions or ideas for posts.

  We are trying to grow a fan base and would appreciate you joining our facebook fan page or follow via your google account.  Also, the more exposure the better!  If you would be so kind to post an entry on your facebook page (there is a button on the bottom of each article) then new readers could come enjoy our adventures. 

  So whether you like A letter to the USDA, or an oldie but a goody: The Flies are dumber out here we hope you'll continue to check in on us and our fun times here on Lancaster's Edge.  Here's to the next 1000 visitors!

Rob, Amy and Ayla
lancastersedge@hotmail.com.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Barn Spelunking #2

On June 21, Amy and I rummaged through our 121 year old barn and found lots of excellent (and several non-so-excellent) goodies.  I promised there would be more, so here we are with a second addition of Spelunking.  There is so much stuff in this barn I would not be surprised if this has multiple entries following this one.  Above you can see an old milking cow pail.  The level of rust and breakdown suggest this pail is old and has not been recently used.




Another tool to add to my collection.  Here is a hammer, Amy is pretty sure it was used by farriers (those who put horseshoes on).  This is definitely "primitive" and was built here on this piece of property.  



 A dairy cow's bell?
Here I am holding the last strange object we will post about.  It looks similar to that of a small trident but with only two prongs.  So, it is a du-dent.  This dudent is what evil people or satanic creatures use while they are still in training...but it's probably something else.  Amy's guess is it belonged to a tractor at one point.  She's pretty smart so I'll go with that.

Not pictured:  two trash bags FULL of rusty nails, wires and other old metals as well as many bottles of unmarked glass containers and coffee cans.

Taxes...do we save more living outside of town?

In 2008 an article was published in the Lincoln Journal Star stating the sad, but incredibly obvious truth: Nebraska, Lancaster County property  taxes are among highest in nation!

"As an historically agricultural state, owning more land in Nebraska meant you would have more income and could afford to pay more taxes on that property", [state senator] Tom White said. "That direct correlation is no longer always true".

Too true.  As a one-income, teacher salary family, we agree.

This got me thinking.  By us moving to edge of the county, as opposed to being within city limits, are we spending less on taxes?  Let's look at some data:

According to the Nebraska Department of Revenue
Property Tax Rates in 2010 for living in Lancaster County - .27893900
Property Tax Rates in 2010 for living in the city of Lincoln- .30675800

Property Tax Rates in 2010 for living in Seward County     - .34688200  (our neighboring county)
Property Tax Rates in 2010 for living in Pleasant Dale      -  .40000000 (nearest municipality)

The rates are a little better in the country, but we own more land.  However, if you compare the .16 acres we owned at Sumner to the 5.61 we own here on the Edge we actually pay around $1,000 less per year on property tax...what a puzzle.

The answer is school districts.  It costs are lot more fund a large district like Lincoln Public Schools than it does Milford Public Schools.  LPS expects to collect around $168 million for the 2010-11 simply from property taxes.  I can't find the info for MPS, but I am positive it is much less.

We have already received other types of tax relief in our time here.  Lincoln imposes a $54-per-car Wheel Tax to keep roads maintained but if you don't live within city limits, you do not have to pay the tax.  That saved us $108 a month ago.  Some have fought this before in 2005, but to no avail.  We have had other perks.  If work or delivery is done on our county property, the tax rate is only 5.5% sales tax whereas in Lincoln it is 7%.

Do we ultimately save money living where we do?  No, not when you factor all the gas it takes to go to and fro...But there are, however, some tax reliefs for living here!



Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Overlooking a corn field to the south of the house:
video
This last week we have been surrounded by a beautiful light show.  This video may not do the spectacle the justice it deserves but it is fun either way!

A trip to Pleasant Dale Park

This summer I am getting to be one of my favorite things: a dad.  Yesterday I was browsing the interweb and I stumbled upon this little article on CNN.com.  I would highly encourage you to read it.  I consider myself to be a pretty good father, but this article makes you want to be the best dad you can be.  So, today Ayla (my daughter) and I made a trip to her favorite place: the Pleasant Dale park (or as we refer to it, the PDP).

The 2010 census reveals that Pleasant Dale has a population of 205 people.  There is not a lot going on in town.  The elementary school was shut down at the end of this school year (which is a huge bummer), the gas station is seeking a new owner, and I hear rumors that the restaurant/bar might not be doing great.  What does Pleasant Dale have going for it?  The park.

Rebuilt in 2009 the park is state of the art child entertainment.  There are two main parts to the park, the part that you climb and slide down, and the swings.  We spend an equal amount of time at both locales.  Ayla calls the park the 'Eeee' (mimicking the sound she makes as she goes down the slide).

Main part of the PDP (Pleasant Dale Park)
We love the horses.
We love the horses.  At Ayla's beckoning (and command) even Daddy gets to ride the horses.  There are three total: red, white and blue.  The Red is Ayla's, the white is Daddy's and the blue is Mommy's (again, Ayla has decided this).

Looks like a mirror.  It's not, it represents a choice.


Daddy always has to go down the slides with Ayla.
We climb everything.  Literally.
Tomorrow the Zoo and then swimming.  Now that I have earned my Master's degree, being a teacher in the summer is awesome!

1889 Fun Facts

Honoring the barn's birth year here are some 1889 Fun Facts for Friday.

Jan. 1     The year starts on a Tuesday
Jan. 15   Coca-Cola is incorporated in Atlanta, GA
Feb. 22  Four states added to Union: both Dakotas, Washington and Montana
Apr 16  American actor Charlie Chapman is born
Apr 20  German dictator Adolf Hitler is born
Mar 4    Benjamin Harrison becomes 23rd president of United States
May 6   Eiffel Tower opens in Paris
June 8  Wall Street Journal is established
Oct 8    Moulin Rouge opens in Paris
Nov 21 Gustav Mahler's first symphony, "The Titan" is premiered.
Dec 6   Jefferson Davis dies

Nothing interesting to note in Nebraska history that I can find in 1889.  The marching band at the University was founded in 1879 and the football program was founded in 1890.  Our barn is older than our state's most important commodity!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Phantom Obstacle #1 -- The Pasture

Sorry about the late post today!  Amy and I have been talking a lot about the possibility of owning alpacas and it is still up in the air.  I thought I would share what some of our obstacles are that are potentially limiting this purchase.

The first obstacle is where will Phantom and _________ dwell?  One answer is easy: we have a fenced in pasture in the northeast corner of our lot.  There they can scamper and graze and play and all the while be safe.  However, there are several problems with this space:

On one side is freshlymowed yard, the other side is weed-y pasture land
Problem #1. As you can see the pictures, it is very weed-y.
Solution: That can be corrected with some elbow grease, weeders and mowers.  Cost: nothing, just time and effort.  The process has already begun!

The pasture land.  The barn in the background is our neighbors.

Problem #2.  In this pasture, there is no shelter from the wind and rain.  Alpacas do not like wind or rain and require access to shelter to escape these elements.  We city-folk (I still am one!) naturally say, "well, you have a barn, just put them in that".  Correct, we do have a barn and they will live in the that, but the pasture and the barn are not connected and alpacas do not know how to open doors even if they were.
Solution: Within the pasture we need to build either a two or three wall lean-too.  It does not have to be very big but it does have to be big enough for two alpacas.  Cost: Unknown, but there will be a lot of raw materials involved and then the knowledge of building a lean-too.  Timeline: Needs to be up by Halloween (at the latest) as that is when it starts to get cold.

Old, nasty concrete.
3. As you can see in the third picture there is a lot of concrete remnant in our pasture area, a lot of the 'slabs' can not simply be picked up.  Clearly there was another building here at some point but it has been gone for some time.  No one ever bothered to clean out the space and now we are stuck with the problem.  The alpaca won't eat the concrete, but it is wasted space that could have been graze-able.  
Solution:  Again, more elbow grease and time.  Where are we going to put all the leftover concrete?  Well, a lot of it will sit in a pile behind the barn, however, we are using quite a bit of it to reinforce the foundation of our barn in the northeast corner.  Win-win!
The first haul of many.
There are other issues of owning alpacas that we will discuss, but this is obviously a pretty important one.  We have this space, and although it is not ready for animals it could be in the near future.

What do you think Edgers?  Should we take the 'paca-plunge?!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When will it start to feel like a "farm"? (Meet Phantom)

That's a silly question because this isn't a farm.  Although crops are growing on our land, we are not the ones growing them, maintaining them, or even caring about them.  We barely know they are there. 

So when does our adventure feel real?  Other than the fact that we now say "we'll have to take care of that the next time we're in town", living on the Edge doesn't feel that much different than living on Sumner (despite my first posts).  Well, today we may, and I emphasize may, have a game-changer. 

Meet Phantom:


Phantom is a 2 year old male alpaca.  What is an alpaca? Alpacas are smaller than a llama and sought after for their wool, which is considered to be high quality.  They are herd animals and can live up to 20 years.  They are generally friendly, and as you can see above, cohabitate well with other livestock.  Their precious wool is sheered once a year, in the spring time.  This male is for sale via craigslist, which is Amy's new playground.

A little background.  Amy has been talking about owning alpacas since I can remember.  When we bought this land she immediately decieded that chickens, horses and alpacas were in our future.  We both agreed that livestock was likely a "spring/summer of 2012 thing"...but craigslist is a temptress, it seems.

Back to today's exciting story: Amy contacts the craigslist poster.  We will call him Craig.  Craig tells us a little more about Phantom but then adds that alpacas are herd animals and die when they live alone.  But...he'd sell us a second male, around age 1.5, no name was shared with us.  I instantly think that it is too bad he didn't offer a female, breeding them would be pretty great!  So why not a female?

I am quickly learning that in the world of livestock, females are highly sought after.  Hens make eggs, she-cows produce milk, all females reproduce.  Every herd just needs one dominant male to keep the reproduction going.  Males are turned into beef, pork, and other meat more often than not.  Thus...

Females are expensive.  Craig explains to us that good breeding females sell for around $2000 if not more.  We're fine with males!  On Monday we are going to visit Phantom and ________.  We are weighing the pros and cons of owning alpacas and visiting could seal the deal.  I will be sure to take pictures and share them with you, our loyal Edgers (is it too soon to start making t-shirts?)  :)  And who knows, if we come home with them...

Maybe it will start to feel like a real "farm".

The Ups and Downs of Owning a 100+ year house

Raise your hand if you would purchase a house that has 5 bedrooms.

I see your hand is still up.  Let's see where your threshold is.  
When will you put your hand down?

-2 of those bedrooms (including the master) is downstairs, the other 3 are upstairs. 
-4 bedrooms require significant cosmetic upgrades and the fifth needs quite a bit of wall work
-2 of the bedrooms have zero electrical outlets
-1 of the bedrooms has no closet (which technically makes it not a bedroom)
-Oh yea, the three bedrooms upstairs has no heating or air conditioning.

Hand still up?  I am betting after that long list of chores and to-dos not all of you are willing to own a house in what appears to be such disrepair.  Actually, the house is in very good condition, especially when you consider it's age, but it does need some significant updating.  We have decided that the first serious upgrade this house will receive is air flow to the upper level.  Who knows the countless number of children that grew up in this house freezing in the winter and sweating in the summer, but our future kids will not have to endure this hardship.  That is a bad habit left over from our urban days.

So the task at hand is calling various heating and air specialists and have them float us some quotes and come up with a plan as to how to install this elaborate new system.  2 specialists have come out and it turns out it is much more difficult to add duct work to a already built home than it is when you build a new one.  The best and most affordable plan is to install an interior unit upstairs and run duct work through the ceilings.  We haven't received any estimates yet as to how much this will cost but I am not crossing my fingers.  Luckily everyone we have worked with has been friendly and genuine with wanting to do the job right.

Ok, you can put your hand down those of you who are still holding on.  If nothing else scares you then the 70's dreary shag-like brown carpet in the master bedroom will!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Barn Spelunking #1

It has been rainy here the last couple of days and we were cooped up inside.  During Ayla's naptime the rain let up and Amy had the idea of 'exploring the barn'.  We have only gone through the barn, in it's entirety, about twice and it was not a very thorough venture.  In a month and a half of living here, you'd think we'd know more about our barn.  Armed with flashlights we went searching for the unknown.

The barn was built in 1889.  A lot of people have been in and out of those doors and they have left behind a lot of junk.  Some of that junk has turned old with age but with a little scrubbing we found some old stuff that could have some type of collectible value too it.  I feel like I could run a small antique store with the goods that we are finding in the barn.  Here are the noteworthy finds of today's spelunk (there is undoubtedly more to find).

This barn clearly held livestock in it in for many of the past 122 years: cows, horses, pigs and likely goats.  We found a snaffle bit, one fancy curb bit, work harnesses and sinches.  For horses we found one very large leather harness and a leather bug net.  Other tools we found included the hay bale hook, an excellent old pitchfork and a ladder.  Then it got interesting.

This is an old Lysol glass bottle.  The Lysol logo is imprinted on the glass.  I do not know how old the bottle is, there is no label and no date.  The cap is plastic, which tells me it is probably not terribly old.

Upon researching Lysol, the company was founded in 1918 to help fight polio infestation.  Obviously this time frame works with our barn's, but I unfortunately don't know the exactness.





Fleming's No. 10 Blister for us as a local stimulant and counter-irritant producing a blistering effect helpful in treating atrophy or wasting away of shoulder or hip muscles of horses.

This is still in the box and from what I can tell was never used.  Although I couldn't find any information of this online, I did find that a farming journal spoke about the company in a 1908 publication.  On eBay a 1910 bottle can be purchased.  I do not know the date of this bottle, but it is cool nonetheless.







An old fashioned oil can straight out of the Wizard of Oz.  There is only a partial, difficult to read label left on the container.  It reads "Spring Prevents Collapse of Oiler Bottom".

The next part reads 'patented 1915'.

That doesn't mean this can is from 1915 or around that date, but it certainly gives it a general time period.  There are several oil cans such as these back where I imagine the pigs to have been.  I don't think the two are related :)







Even farmers have their vices:

This product and brand still exists.  In fact Phillips is the maker of your favorite Bacardi products.

I was unable to find how old the brandy is but this bottle and label suggests it goes back some time.






This is a Velvet cigarette tin.  My guess is that it predates the days when cigarettes were sold in paper packaging.  At the bottom of the tin it says that it is distributed by Liggett & Myers Company.  This company is still around and has been since the middle of the 1800's.

The tin also says "Is made from the finest Kentucky Burley Leaf Tobacco ripened in natures sunshine and cured in nature's way".  Mild & Mellow.  The Velvet brand, as far as I can tell, no longer exists.


Cool old pail.


Cool old lock

Rob climbing cool old ladder
Something tells me we have just scratched the surface with old memorabilia in that barn.  I am hoping we can share more in the future!

Top 5 Tuesday

Every Tuesday we will post a Top 5 list .  The content of these lists may or may not relate to the typical blog content.  The list won't necessarily adhere to the Top 5 in order of "best to worst".  We hope this will become a mainstay here on the blog and that people enjoy it!

Inaugural Top 5 List
What are the biggest changes between urban living and living on the Edge?

1. Distance.  This is an obvious difference.  Our old house at Sumner was located in the middle of Lincoln and we were no more than 5-10 minutes away from anything we wanted or needed.  Now the trip to get a simple gallon of milk can take a minimum of 30 minutes round trip.  You really have to condense trips, plan ahead and take care of as much as possible in one venture.  This also affects babysitting/babysitters.  Grandma and Grandpa are always willing to watch Ayla, but it takes 20-25 minutes to get there.  Grade the change: C.  We knew what we were getting into moving 9 miles outside of city limits, so there were no surprises, but that doesn't take away the fact that it sucks (for lack of a better term) at times.

2.  Quiet.  Again, this is obvious.  Living out here you can count on the fact that at night the loudest sound you will hear is the eerie sound of frogs in the distance and lots of birds.  Always birds.  Relating that to the noise of the busy street of Sumner (which many treated the 25 mph sign as a joke!)  it is much more peaceful here.  One of my favorite things to do is sit on the deck or patio and read a book, or blog, or blog about a book I am reading.  Grade the change: B+.  The only thing you miss is the constancy that others exist, but TV and internet remind you of that pretty quick.  Also, the absence of barking dogs in a crowded neighbor at all hours of the day and night are more than worth it.

3.  Mowing the lawn.  Our old house sat on a .16 acre plot of land and with my push mower I could finish mowing the entire lawn, front and back, in around 45 minutes.  Now I own a riding lawn mower (as highlighted in the Week 1-2 post) and it takes me almost 3 hours to mow my 2.26 acres of yard.  I will admit, the fun factor is increased when riding a lawn mower but the amount of time is a hindrance.  Again, something we knew about heading into this adventure, but still a headache.  Grade the change: B.  I don't mind a little more work for a nice lawn, but it is time consuming.

4.  Bubble Factor.  Living on the busyness of Sumner rendered our front yard useless for playtime.  As cars flew by, we were increasingly more cautious to let Ayla run around in the front yard, even with our strict supervision.  Too many cars, to much opportunity for poor circumstance.  The back yard was mud and weeds due to the dogs, my lack of caring for the lawn, and we purchased it while snow was on the ground....thus, she couldn't play back there so she was always inside.  Now she can burst that "bubble" and play a little further away from us and we are essentially positive that she is safe.  The stress is almost non-existent and it is a nice feeling.  Grade the change: A.  I much prefer all the space and running around safely that she can now enjoy to the constrained bubble we used to have to live in.

The Barn.  Built 1889.
5.  Barn.  We didn't have a barn before and we have one now.  I think that is a pretty significant change!  Grade of Change: I don't think this can be graded.  Let me know what you think :).

Monday, June 20, 2011

USDA pt. 2

This blog's most popular post is titled  "Letter to the USDA" on June 15 (See the sidebar!).  Due to it's extreme popularity some follow-up is required.  Despite my humorous under-tone in that initial post, I must regrettably inform you that I spoke on the phone with a very knowledgeable man at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office.  He guided Amy and I through the letter which was sent out on June 3 informing us we had thirty days to dispute the government's HEL (Highly Erodible Land) distinction that the USDA was placing on our property.

At this point, some background is necessary.  Our 5.61 acres is carved out of the original 160 acre Lohmeier homestead that was established back in 1889.  Within that 5.61 acres are 2.94 acres (yes, the government has diced up farmland down to that level of exactness) which are currently growing corn.  That contract was set up before we purchased the house and we signed a document allowing the growth for the year 2011.  It is not our intent in the future to maintain that contract but for now it is in place.  Our 2.94 acres was part of 90+ acres that was in a government conservation program to eliminate the HEL distinction.  When our 5.61 acres were carved out of the Lohmeier land, the letter we received informing us we were HEL was simply a courtesy notification on the government's part.  Confused yet?

So I asked the man, "What do we need to do at this time?
His answer, "you don't need to do nothin'".
Ignoring his grammar choices I responded with, "....Nothing? Why?"

Because we will receive a letter in the future detailing the conservation plan which is already in place, but we can not receive this plan until the required 30 days after June 3 have passed informing us of our HEL land.  (Why, if I just called in, do we need to wait...? In case we choose to dispute it before July 3?)


At which point we either adhere to this plan, request to make our own, or plant grass seed (which is the plan) and it will eliminate the HEL distinction swiftly.

Aren't you glad I followed up on this?  :)
All this talk about corn, I had to include a picture of some of our 2.94 acres of corn.

400 visits in 1 week!

Last Sunday, June 12, I finally found the courage to make this blog live and I could not be more pleased with the results.  Since that day over 400 unique visitors have visited the blog, 7 comments have been made and 3 people now follow the site.  After Nebraska visitors, California, New York and Kansas are all vying for attention and Canada has even made 6 visits.  That is a pretty good week if you ask me.  I am continually looking for feedback and hope you are enjoying the content put forth on this blog.

Now I need your help.  ProBlogger says that the most difficult thing to keep bloggers going is the generation of new and interesting content.  Although I have plenty to write about, I am asking you, the casual readers, passer-by's or full-fledged Edgers for your ideas.  What are you interested in reading about? Learning about?  Living "out here" is loads different than living in town so I am looking for themes that can excite readers.

Thank you for your input.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beekman Inspiration

Have you heard of the very popular "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" on the Planet Green Channel?  Unless you have nice cable, this channel might not be available...we only have it because we have satellite.  If so, then you have witnessed some excellent reality television about two men who trade the fast-paced life of New York City for the quiet times of Sharon Springs, NY.  They purchase a mansion and barn (and land) that were built in 1802.  These two men, Josh and Brent, are pretty amazing guys, I highly encourage you to check out their website/blog/store/television show. 

If you have been reading our blog, or know us personally, then you know that there are some definite parallels here.  Trading urban lifestyle in for rural, switching to more natural living, making goat milk soap (oh wait, that's just them).  When we stumbled upon their show in 2009 it fueled the fire to eventually move out and give this a try.  Brent, who was previously a doctor, also worked for Martha Stewart and Josh is a business executive and author.  This post is about his latest book which is an "unconventional memoir" about their move titled: "The Bucolic Plague" by Josh Kilmer-Purcell.  Click the link and amazon has a sweet deal that lasts until June 21 offering the hardback book for only $10!

Before I get into his book, there is a small back story.  Today is Father's Day and I asked for only one gift from my wife/child.  Each night it is my responsibility to put our daughter to bed and I always read her several books.  She is currently fascinated with Curious George books, but we only own three books.  I have grown more and more frustrated and bored with these books so I finally asked my wife for new Curious George books to read to my daughter.  Today I received three new ones.  I was more thrilled than my daughter!  But how does this relate?  Knowing that I needed some reading material of my own my wife picked up Josh's book for me from the Beekman 1802 store and it was a personalized, autographed copy for me.  Hooray!

I have had the book for only an hour and I am already on chapter three.  It is informative, easy to read, and hilarious.  I must throw in a disclaimer that I do not work for the Beekman boys, I just am a huge fan of what they do and what they represent.  Here is one excerpt that I think is a good representation of what the book is all about.  After their real estate agent (Michelle) gives them a tour of the mansion...

"That's everything inside," Michelle said.  "Would you like to see the crypt?"
"The what?" I said.
"The crypt," she repeated.  "The Beekman Family Crypt.  It's just in the side yard."
Of course I wanted to see the crypt.  Who wouldn't? I wondered how she described that in the real estate listing.  "Historic Mansion, 5BDRM / 5BA / 7 FP / 1 CRPT".  (p. 30).

Truly a great read and I like it even more because it relates so well to our situation here on the Edge.  The Lohmeier family homesteads our land starting in 1889, which for Nebraska history (Nebraska received statehood in 1867) is pretty significant.  Our barn was built as it stands today in 1889, the house came shortly thereafter.  History intrigues me and the Beekman was established in 1802 which is even more historical.  Truly a great read and a great father's day, I hope everyone had a great day!

Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit, a famous Billie Holiday song that is widely known as one of the first anti-racism songs in American history...has nothing to do with this post.

Today was a great day here at the Edge.  It started out with a trip to the Haymarket in Lincoln where we went to the weekly farmer's market.  Several weeks ago one of favorite vendors informed us that he would have raspberry bushes.  Heck yea!  I love raspberries and at our old house it was the most invasive and productive produce we had.  We went with plans of buying several bushes, maybe five or six if we were the mood.  But then something happened...

We were given some choices, and they changed everything!  The vendor had some samples of a fruit we had never heard of, apparently they grow in Northwest Nebraska all the way up to Canada.  These were serviceberries.  They remind one of the texture of a blueberry but with a much sweeter taste.  It was too hard to pass up and we purchased it for the garden.  Two weeks ago, Amy purchased a different strange fruit from this vendor: an Elderberry bush.  We didn't have any sample at that time, we were simply intrigued by the uniqueness of this bush.  Both bushes can be used for jams, jellies or pies.  Since Amy and I don't bake, I see jams in our future.

Out in our yard there is a mulberry tree.  It is starting to drop bucket loads of fruit and Amy picked a bunch today.  I have great memories of my parents making mulberry pancakes for my brothers and I so it is very exciting (and tedious) to already have this tree on our property.  In our front bed, we just planted Junebearing Strawberries.  I forgot about those!

So to recap we now have five different berries growing at the Edge: Elderberries, Mulberries, Raspberries, Serviceberries and Strawberries!

Elderberries

Serviceberries (also known as Saskatoons

Mulberries

This is where the more whimsical writer would conclude using something from Billie Holidays lyrics to "Strange Fruit".  If you look up those lyrics, they do not apply.  At all.  Thus, no clever ending :).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Mosquitoes are Smarter Out Here

A humorous post on my facebook wall that must be addressed:
"I enjoyed your observation about flies. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about mosquitoes."
 I don't know if they are smarter out here but two things are for sure.  1) They are hungrier and 2) They are numerous and well-organized.  Nebraska in June means lots of "skeeter" bites no matter where you live in the state, but it seems like out in the country they are more organized.

City Mosquitoes are mostly loners, they hunt for themselves.  They don't go to church or support religion, government or team sports (they prefer tennis or golf).  Country stingers are team players and always want to work together for the greater good.  One goes down, they call a medic and see if he can be brought back to health.  They are well-polished, rehearsed unit of blood-sucking.

This may be myth, but I don't think so.  Let the debate begin!

(Speaking of Facebook, feel free to follow us by clicking on the facebook badge on the left wall)

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Edge's Vegetable Gardens

This post is dedicated to my wife because it is about one of her greatest passions: Gardening. If you know an avid gardener, then you know that the moment the frost is gone until the harvest in the fall, they are constantly working on their garden(s). My wife and mother-in-law (who is visiting) are two of these people. I respect it and like to help out from time to time, but I, unfortunately, am not a full-boar card-carrying gardener...yet.

Of course, one of the main reasons we purchased this land was not to garden on a small scale, but was to eventually grow lots of organic produce. Our future plans include at least an acre of the good, organic produce, but this being Year One we are being responsible and staying small. Here are some pictures of our current endeavors.
The girls in our herb garden. 

This picture above shows are newly fenced-in herb garden.  In the garden my wife has planted mostly seed of the following: cilantro, dill, basil, lemon basil, chamomile tea, and green onion.  I always the say the more basil the better (lots of pesto for me!!!).  Sparingly she placed some heirloom tomatoes and bell peppers at the opposite end.  Our daughter, Ayla, is on the fence posts above.  She loves to help but tends to be more of a distraction :).

With our Cob House serving as the backdrop, here is our tomato garden.
We love tomatoes, especially my wife's gourmet salsa's (I think they're gourmet, at least).  Amy loves to try a variety of different tomato plants.  In this plot lie seven different tomato plants, one pepper (in the back) and in the barrel on the right we have two butternut squash plants growing.  Although I can't remember all the varieties, the one I am looking most forward too are the pineapple tomatoes.

Scarlet Runner Beans on the South side of the Garage
On the south side of our garage Amy planted Scarlet runner beans and a clever bamboo contraption to see that they climbed up and up.  I know very little about these beans.  My assumption is that they are red, and Amy tells me they are edible.  Despite lots of wind, these beans have thrived and grown over the past several weeks.  I am excited to see what they will do!

That is essentially our vegetable/herb gardens as of now.  We have 2.94 acres that are corn and next year the plan is to turn at least 1 acre into organic produce.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts about our gardens!