Monday, December 19, 2011

Welcoming the Next Generation

My excitement began last Spring.  My daughter called to let me know that she and her husband were expecting their first child.  This fabulous news meant that I was to become a grandmother for the first time.

Jenn and Ben decided to use a midwife and have a home birth, if at all possible.  They researched the options carefully and prepared themselves for that special day.

On Saturday, December 10, 2011, at 3:15 AM, my cell phone rang.  As it would happen, I was just getting ready to go to bed, but I saw the number and picked up right away.  "Hi, Jenn, what's up?" Jenn calmly told me that her water had broken.

I had a great deal of trouble getting to sleep that night, though Jenn had insisted I should wait to make the drive until after I'd gotten some sleep.  She assured me she was not yet in labor.  I did get about three hours of sleep and then was up, preparing for the trip to participate in the birth.  Jenn had decided she'd like me to make a big pot of spit pea soup while we awaited the new arrival, so, as I headed out of town, I stopped at the local grocery store to pick up the ingredients.

The drive was beautiful.  Though it was well into December, the temperatures were more fall-like, with a crisp blue sky and bright sun.  I took pictures along the way, wanting to remember the weather the day my first grandchild was born.
Heading out of Gloucester
A Peaceful Two Lane Road
Lovely Trees and Fences
Glorious Blue Skies

Arriving at Ben and Jenn's House

When I arrived, early afternoon, they were still waiting for "real" contractions to begin.  Jenn and Ben had decided they'd take this time to find a Christmas tree and decorate it -- their first Christmas tree in their new home.  So we all got in their van and headed out to find the tree.  It didn't take long and within a couple of hours we were back at the house, the tree trimmed and in place, and strung with Christmas lights.  Decorating more would have to wait until later.

First Christmas Tree

We ate the split pea soup I'd made, and decided to go to bed early, hoping Jenn could get some rest while the contractions were still irregular and tolerable.  I slept until 5 AM when I awoke to the smells of delicious Italian seems Jenn had slept until 1 AM and awakened with regular she decided to make eggplant parmesan... perfectly logical, right?

Through the morning Sunday, December 11, the contractions continued but were still not very close together.  Her midwife visited a couple of times, measuring her progress and ensuring that Jenn and Ben were the ones calling the shots on how long to wait at home before deciding to transfer to the hospital.  Because Jenn's water had broken, there was a real time limit on how long they could wait, as the baby was no longer protected by the amniotic sac and risk of infection rose with every hour that passed without giving birth.

Finally, after baking chocolate chip cookies, going for a two mile walk with Ben, their dog Talice and me, Jenn went into hard labor.  I was given the job of official "timer." Using my cellphone timer, I kept track of each contraction, how duration, time lapse between contractions, etc.  We notified the midwife that Jenn was in real labor, and she returned to the house for the third time that day.
Along Our Two Mile Walk
Timing Contractions
It was interesting to watch Jenn and Ben as she worked through the contractions.  For more than eight hours the labor continued, and the midwife began to get concerned.  We were approaching 48 hours since the amniotic sac had ruptured, and the baby was still not born.  At about 11PM she did an internal exam and determined that for all Jenn's labor, she'd only dilated to 4 cm.  With an average dilation of 1 cm per hour, it would be well past the 48 hour outside limit for safe delivery, so they made the decision to transfer to the hospital.
Jenn and Ben Working Through Contractions
Tired but Tender
Talice, Ever Vigil
We arrived at the hospital at just about midnight Sunday night.  Thankfully, everyone at the hospital was great and the birthing room was very "homey."  Jenn was immediately started on antibiotics and fluids, delivered intravenously, because she was so dehydrated.   As it turned out, the transfer to the hospital was a good decision -- it isn't likely the baby would have been delivered successfully without the assistance of the doctors. Jenn's labor continued for over twelve hours more before she finally delivered a beautiful baby. Tears flowed all around as we all laid our eyes, for the first time, on this miracle.

New Baby
The baby was immediately laid, wrapped in a blanket, at her mother's breast, umbilical cord still unsevered, and we watched as the skin color changed rapidly from a dusky blue to a bright healthy pink.  After a minute or two, the doctor suggested that Benoit might want to take a peek to see whether the child was a boy or a girl.  All of us laughed, because, it had occurred to none of us to check -- so happy had we been with the successful, healthy birth!  When Ben pulled back the blanket and looked, his announcement, "Girl" was met with another round of tears of joy.  Jenn had always "felt" she was carrying a girl, but they'd both wanted to keep the gender a surprise.  They had also kept their choice of names under wraps.  So I asked Ben, "what is her name?"  And with a soft voice, he replied, "Eloise."

Eloise and Ben (Papa)
I would never have thought of that name.  I think it is beautiful, almost as beautiful as the child herself.

Baby Eloise came into the world weighing 7 lbs 10 1/2 oz and measuring 19 inches long.  She was healthy and alert from the start, but because of the long duration in the ruptured amniotic sac, she and Jenn had to stay two days at the hospital. Meanwhile, I returned home the day after Eloise was born.
Holding Tight onto Papa's Finger
Tomorrow I will travel back to visit them. Tuesday we will drive up to MD to visit my mother and stepfather, who is at home, in Hospice care as he is dying of cancer.  It is a difficult journey to make -- on the one hand, so happy about the new birth, and on the other, knowing we are bidding farewell to and old friend.  Life has been nothing, if not eventful these past few weeks.

And, back on the old farm, we have the animals snug in their winter quarters, the house is inching closer and closer to "livable" and we are bracing ourselves for the "real" cold weather which is, no doubt, just around the corner.

Goats and Chickens -- Happy Together
Wintery Sky Over Farmhouse

Judy Stacking Wood
 No matter what, though, I have, undoubtedly, received the best Christmas present I could ever hope for ... the start of a new generation!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

From St. Louis, MO

I'm sitting here in my hotel room in St. Louis, MO and realizing that it is already November.  Well, of course, I realized it was November when the month began, but it is finally sinking in on me that we are just about to face winter again (UGH).  Ours has been a busy Fall just as was our Summer and Spring.  It does NOT look as if we will be in the renovated farm house before the end of the year, but I'm not terribly surprised by that.
Judy Baking Cake for Joe
to eat while I'm in St. Louis
And so we face another winter (our second) in the garage apartment.  I'm good with that.  To be honest, while Joe was originally certain we'd be in the old farmhouse by the end of the summer, I always figured we'd be three years getting the place renovated before being able to move in.  February 2, 2012 we will have owned the property for two years, so we shall see who was closest in original predictions.

Meanwhile, the three ring circus continues to deliver excitement and amazement.

I was required to take a class this summer.... two nighst a week for eight weeks... missing the very best time of the summer evenings, stuck inside, participating in a class that would, hopefully, help me pass the certification exam I was required to take.  I had quite an attitude about even taking the exam, much less the class.  I figured I'd already paid that price when I was "encouraged" to earn my Master's degree more than ten years ago.  Even though I was, at the time, working full time and raising teenaged kids, I complied and earned my degree.  Now I was being told the degree wasn't enough...I had to become "certified"....  So, grudgingly, I attended the classes; grudgingly, I studied, and grudgingly, I accepted the fact that an overwhelming percentage of those who sit for this exam do not pass it the first time.  I resigned myself to the fact that I would be plunking down ANOTHER $600 to take the exam a second time, even before I  sat for it the first time.

September 24, 2011, a perfectly good Saturday, was wasted with a very early morning drive 60 miles to Richmond, VA to sit for the 6 hour exam.  I chatted with some of the others also sitting for the exam and they'd all been there before... the woman sitting next to me told me the best advice she could give me was to start studying again when I got home from taking the every day, because I'd be that much farther ahead when I got the results telling me that I had NOT passed... Great, I thought, more studying, YAY (NOT).  I took almost three hours to take the exam.  I did not stress over it.  I knew I would not pass it, but wanted to shake that test anxiety...the second time would be the charm, I figured.

When I arrived back at the farm, Joe asked how I thought I'd done.  "I failed, I'm sure, but that's OK. I'm glad I took it."  He was the first in a long line of folks to tell me they were SURE I'd passed.  How, I wondered, could they possibly be so certain about such a thing?  They'd never sat for that exam...they had no idea of the level of difficulty and they certainly are not familiar with my aging brain that seems less and less capable of retaining new and "interesting" facts.  But they assured me I would pass.  Never mind, the results would be in within 6 weeks and they'd all see I had NOT been being modest.

About four weeks later, on a Friday afternoon, I got the email.  UGH, I thought as I clicked to read the bad news.  I could not have been more surprised when I read the words, "...are pleased to inform you you successfully PASSED the CISSP exam."  I am NOT kidding when I say that I was SO excited.... like a kid.... I ran down the stairs as fast as I could, out to the side yard of the farm house where Joe and the carpenter were installing gutter guards... "I PASSED!!!" To which Joe replied, "I knew you would..."  LOL
Joe installing gutter guards

Of course, the really big news is about to happen, and for that I can hardly wait.  I had lunch with my daughter about a month ago, in Richmond, after which we spent the afternoon "thriftshopping."  She was looking very pregnant, but carrying the baby well.  She was just starting into that, "I'm ready to have my body back" stage.  Her busy season for her floral design business is just about wrapped up, and hopefully, she will be able to rest a little before the little one arrives.  December 22 is the ETA for the new arrival.
Jenn... Not showing her Belly....
you'd never know she's just at 8 months pregnant..
On the farm front, amazingly, I am STILL picking bell peppers from the garden...we are still getting Roma tomatoes and cherry tomatoes and golden berries.  I even harvested a couple of late carrots and an eggplant.  Some of the plants are still flowering, though I don't think the bees are around to pollinate.  We even got a few late figs from one of the fig trees.  Joe's tobacco is flowering and he hopes to get some seeds that will be hardier for next year's crop.  Most of the flowers have died back, but the marigolds and impatiens are still going strong.  I'm a bit surprised by that, since we have had two frosts already.

Our construction projects continue... I'm not sure how many tons of compaction soil, clay, crush and run, and gravel we will eventually spread to get this place the way we want it, but I can certainly attest to the fact that we need to order ANOTHER 20 tons each of compaction soil and crush and run.  We are very thankful we happened on the Kubota tractor through Craigslist last August!  That little powerhouse has really paid for itself in a very short time.
Tractor after a full year of hard labor!
Our most recent focus has been preparing the winter quarters for the animals.  This will be our first year wintering over chickens and goats.  We have taken the 125 year old lumber that we cut out of the old farmhouse and have recycled it to create the winter quarters.  Joe designed the facility and did the hard work, while I did the easy stuff.  It is almost completed, and true to form, when the REAL work had to be down, I left town on business... funny how that "works." (While Joe works on moving the farm reformation forward, I have been jetting around the country for work. In the past month or so I've been to Chicago, Boston, the western part of VA, California, and now St. Louis.)  I'm excited to get the new quarters completed and the additional fencing erected, as I have a feeling these moderate temperatures will not last much longer.
125 Year Old Lumber from the old Farm House
And some new OSB

And some Metal over the insulated Roof

And the big news in the old farm house is that we have FINALLY gotten the narrow, twisting stairs out, and replaced with nice, wide, straight run stairs.  Naturally, when the carpenter removed those old stairs, exposing the ONLY wall that had not yet been exposed, we found more rotten lumber that had to be replaced. It is truly incredible this place was still standing.  When we are done with it, she should make another 100 years easy!
New Stairs Going In
New Stairs with Temporary Treads
Joe Stapling up Netting to Hold Insulation Under Floor in Old Farm House
Joe Installing Insulation in Floor
So, the farm is coming along, little by little, step by step.... one day... one day....

Chickens... Doing their thing

Goats, doing their thing

Praying Mantis, looking at his shadow

Judy Giving Killian a MUCH needed grooming

Benson, getting up close and personal with a MOLE

A little visiting snake...

And a spider
As Night Falls on the old Farm House

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October Again

I was looking back at my blog from last year on this day.  I laughed as I recalled our escapades through southern California -- discovering the camel farm -- checking out the "apple pie" capital, Julian, CA, (and sampling some of the pie) -- just enjoying the beautiful weather and a few hours off from work.

Joe and Judy in Southern CA, 10/10/10
Camel Farm in Southern, CA
Work.... hahahaha!   Back then I THOUGHT we'd been working ourselves silly with this old farmhouse.  Certainly, by October 2010 we had managed to get a few roads started, a few hundred feet of trenches started, the floor torn up and the old chimney removed from the old farmhouse....  We'd started the transformation of the job site trailer into my eBay operation. And we'd built a deck on the garage apartment, added windows and doors, both in the garage and in the apartment, and had erected three carports to shelter farm equipment etc. We'd had our first experiences with goats, and we'd planted a LOT of fruit trees.  We were definitely ready for a vacation and took advantage of a work assignment in southern CA, by extending our time there to visit family and friends.

Though we flew out to CA, we drove back, in a rented truck, loaded down with TONS of boxes, moving more of Joe's belongings three thousand miles across the country to their new home in Virginia.

Windmills at Sunrise from the Truck
Dramatic Skies from the Truck
And, with that journey, began a year of MORE work.

When I look back at what we have accomplished in a year, despite CHALLENGING weather and a shortage of workers who will actually show up to perform work they have contracted to do, I am amazed.  We have completely gutted the old farmhouse, and are well on the way to having the reconstruction complete, hopefully before the new year.

Judy Inspecting the New Master Bedroom Ceiling Rafters
We completed the eBay trailer, and it has served me very well, though my eBay operation is on auto-pilot these days. We have completed a labyrinth of trenches, buried underground water conduits, electric conduits, and drainage tubing, aimed to transform this property into more usable land.  We've continued building the roads around the property, to facilitate access to the different areas, have dug a couple of ponds, and built many hundreds of feet of fence.

eBay Operation
Acquiring More Fencing Materials
In the garage we have installed a wood stove, a laundry area, a living room area and a kitchenette with table. We can now choose to eat meals upstairs or down, and spend winter evenings enjoying the warmth of the wood fire while we play a game of scrabble, or play some music.  I continue to wonder if, when we finally FINISH the farm house renovation, we will actually move over there, and out of our now-comfortable, modest garage digs....
Playing Scrabble in the warmth of Linda's Wood Stove
Kitchenette and Laundry Facilities in Garage
We have begun the modification of the semi trailer we purchased in the summer of 2010, with the idea that it will eventually become both storage and office space.  So far we have installed an exterior front door in the side of the trailer and added decks in front of the back roll-up door and the newly installed front door. We still have several windows, a lot of shelving and some interior walls to install.

New Door in Semi Trailer

The farm was actually put to a test this spring and summer, and produced sufficient quantities of a variety of vegetables, that I will be able to cook all winter with bounty from the summer.  Our flowers did fabulously and our weeds did even better!  Next year's challenge will be to grow more of the desired plants and less of the undesired, but, some of those weeds had pretty flowers, so.....  hmmmm. We also added a dozen chickens to our farm and three new goats.....more fences...more structures... more work....

Two of the New Kids
Roadside Flower/Waterrmelon Garden
I'm sure I've forgotten something, but it's hard to keep up with everything.  And to think I routinely sit back and wonder if we will EVER make any progress!  I suppose I just need to look back at the thousands of photos we've taken, and the many blog posts I've written, to remind myself that we HAVE made an awful lot of progress. On the other hand, looking at all of those photos and reading about all we have done is making me tired.... I think we MUST be ready for another vacation.  I sincerely hope we will be able to take some time to get back out to CA this fall.

Beautiful California

Beautiful Mountains

Meanwhile... back at the farm.... the work continues... we have roads to complete, barns to build, trailers to repair....  It's a good thing we ENJOY this life!

Joe Building MORE Roads

Judy Visiting with "the girls"
Joe Tarps "Tool Trailer," Currently Under Repair