Thursday, May 10, 2012

Farm Plans

Just an FYI... Any post written since Bryce was born and likely any post for the next 18 months was/will be typed with one hand so please excuse any typos. The only time of the day I get to sit and work on the computer is while Bryce nursing.

Anyways, on my last post I mentioned that I will go into more details about our farm plans. Our goal over the next 5 years is to get the photography business and the farm to a place where it is supplying most of our necessary income. Our goal over the next 10 years is to become mostly self-sustaining. We would also like to get our budget down as much as possible which would include paying off our mortgage and Kevin's student loan. Realistically we would have to win a small lottery or something to make that possible in the next 10 years... at least for the mortgage. Anyone know of a game show that's casting?

The following is an outline of our farm plans. It may or may not go in this order:

Phase 1: Chickens! Kevin is still building the coop. It was put on hold for a short time when Bryce was born. He believes that it will only take him 2 more weekends, which is good considering the chickens will be here the first week in June. They will be in a brooder for a few weeks at first but it will be nice to have it done and set up a few weeks before they are ready to be moved into it. I have been photographing the progress of the coop and will do a post about it when it has been completed. I ordered 8 chicks, all different breeds, so we can figure out which we like best. These are all laying hens. We may have meat birds in the future but not this time around. I need to figure out a lot of good recipes for eggs.

Phase 2: Barn and Fencing We have been saving up for the barn. Since I will no longer be teaching we didn't want to take out a loan and add anything to our budget. I have worked very hard with our budget over the years trying to make it so we had money to put away each month. It's important to me that buying the barn doesn't deplete our safety net. The barn isn't huge. It's about the size of a large shed, so cost wise it isn't bad. It should comfortably shelter 5-7 goats and we will be starting with 2-3 and if we ever exceed 7 will hopefully have the funds to build an additional shelter. Kevin plans to do the fencing himself... hopefully that goes well.

Phase 3: Garden We will be having a raised bed garden with 4 raised beds. Kevin plans to build my beds by fall so we have time to start working on the soil. He will also be building electric fencing around the garden to keep out all the varies animals that want to eat our fruits and veggies. The kids and I will be planting a garden next spring. I have big plans but am trying to not go overboard. I'm not known for having a green thumb but I have been doing a ton of research. I am learning what fruits and veggies are the best for beginners, what plants grow well with others, how to keep away bugs and diseases. Hopefully we will have a great crop next year.... we will see.

Phase 4: Goats As long as the barn and fencing is up we will get our goats next spring. We want to get 2-3 kids. I would like to raise them from babies. We will get Nubians. Their milk has a high butter fat and they are the breed of goat that I have always wanted. They are known as the "divas" of the goat world because they talk a lot and have strong personalities. We have talked about getting a guard dog at the same time. We need to figure out if this is nessesary first.

Phase 5: Kidding Our current plan is it breed all of our females in the fall of the first year. We may choose to wait a full year but I would like to get the milk going as soon as possible. We need to figure out if our goats are old enough to breed before we make that decision.

Phase 6: Bees I want bees for a few reasons. I want them to pollinate our trees, flowers and garden and I would love to be able to have their honey. We have a decent population of bees already but I would like it to be more controlled and I want to give them a nice place to live... and like I said this way I get their honey. We have a few types of bees on our property. We are battling carpenter bees right now. They are the only breed we are trying to get rid of. They are putting holes in our house and lean-to. We will purchase our population of bees for our hive... as I assume that is what you do. This is a subject that I need to do more research on. I have time though. This is a project for next spring or possibly the spring after that. The goats may be grabbing all of the attention next spring.

Phase 7: Milk, Soap, and Cheeses Our main goal for the goats is to make soap products to sell. The milk and cheese products will be just for our family, at least for now. We would like to get all of our dairy products from our own farm. It's a long process to be able to sell food products. If we ever sell our cheeses it will likely be project for much further down the road

Phase 8: Workshop Making soap takes up space and can be messy (lol). Not to mention that some of the chemicals can be dangerous. So we would like to make our shed into a workshop for soap making... with running water, counters, and shelving for aging the soap. It would be nice to have these things away from the house and for us to have a less distracting place to work.

Phase 9: Small Green House There are many plants that we would like to grow that wouldn't do well in our Virginia winters and plants that we would like to try to grow year round. We can hopefully make these possible by having a small green house. I have found a ton of plans for greenhouses that I love on pinterest but they require us to somehow have a supply of old wooden windows. In an effort to make this project affordable we will likely be looking for a cheaper material, like PVC pipe.

Phase 10: Solar Power It's start up costs are quite expensive but sometime in the next ten years we hope to have solar power.

There are plenty of things that we would like to add to the property that isn't on this list because they aren't huge projects, are things that I am not sure how we are ever going to be able to afford, or are things that are not a huge proprity. Things like a fire pit in the backyard (we will likely hold off until the kids are much older), fencing off the remainder of the yard so the chickens can free range all the time and we don't have to worry about dogs or other animals attacking them, paving at least part of our driveway so the kids have a place to bike and play with chalk and so we can get out of the driveway more easily after bad weather, and taking down about an acre of trees off the rest of the property to make more pasture land and possibly a pasture and housing for a male goat.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Resignations and Big Plans

After a lot of thought Kevin and I have decided that it is best for me leave my teaching job and to stay home with the kids. It makes the most sense, financially. It's quite bitter sweet. The school system where I work has been very good to me over the last 4 years and the staff has become like family but I am extremely excited and feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to stay at home with the kids. Kevin and I have so many plans for the kids, the photography business and the farm and me being home is going to free me up to work on making those plans a reality. We hope within the next 5 years that the photography business and farm provide the majority of our income. Whether that is realistic or not I guess we will have to wait and see.

As many of you know, we plan to homeschool the kids. This is a huge commitment in many ways but time-wise it will keep me from working a job that requires me to be out the house most of the week. The photography business will allow me to schedule work on the weekends, so Kevin can be home with the kids. I will occasionally have to work during the week but it will not be enough to interfere with the kid's school schedule. I have had so much fun building the elementary curriculum and building a community of  homeschoolers who are homeschool for the same reasons that I am.

The farm has been our dream for a long time. We would like to be self-sustaining in the next 10 years and we have so many plans for our small plot of land... so many in fact that I will do another post about our farm plans.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Bryce Nicole’s Birth Story

Bryce was born April, 17th 2012.
It was decided very early in the pregnancy that I would be induced early in order to avoid the complications that I had during my labor with Breckin. When I expressed that I would like to go into labor on my own this pregnancy and was told that as long as this baby was smaller than Breckin they would consider it but if the baby was the same size or larger I would have to be induced early and they proceeded to explain the complications that can occur from having a large baby. Apparently we dodged quite a few bullets with Breckin. I was lucky that I was the only one who suffered complications because apparently quite a few things could have gone wrong with Breckin. We were blissfully unaware of what could go wrong while pregnant with Breckin. This time having that knowledge was a lot to carry around.
At almost 37 weeks I was given a growth scan ultrasound. Her labor was going to be planned based on what the ultrasound told us. She had already been measuring quite large and I was warned the week before that she was likely going to be bigger than Breckin. She was measuring 8 pounds even and two weeks ahead at the ultrasound. I sat in the room waiting for the doctor crying, expecting her to say that I had hit the size limit already and was going to have to have a c-section. The earliest insurance will allow you to be induced based on size is 38.5 weeks. I was two weeks away from that milestone and was afraid that she would reach a larger size than the Dr was willing to let me deliver. When she came in she assured me that she was going to do whatever she could to give me the delivery I wanted and scheduled the induction for the earliest date she was allowed. Even though Bryce was measuring large she thought that we would still come in a whole pound less than Breckin.
On the day before the induction I went in to pre-register with the hospital and have blood work done. We later picked Kevin up from work so he could leave his work van there and we went out to have our last dinner out as a family of 3… and likely our last dinner out for a long time. We went to the Olive Garden (like we did the night before Breckin’s induction) and then picked up cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. I wasn’t allowed to eat after midnight so the plan was for me to eat the cheesecake as a treat right before bed. We came home, gave Breckin his bath and put him to bed. I shed a few tears knowing that I would be away from him the next couple of nights. We went to bed at 11pm and luckily I fell right to sleep.
I woke up about 4am. I dressed and paced nervously around the house. Kevin called the hospital to make sure they had enough beds. Kim came over around 4:30am to be with Breckin. We went over last minute instructions with her, gave her the monitor and she went back to sleep for the few hours before Breckin needed to be at day care. I went up and gave Breckin a kiss. He woke up long enough to kiss me and give me a hug and we were off to the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital at 6am. It is so surreal walking into the hospital knowing that when you leave you will have a baby with you. We got into the room and they set me up on all the monitors. The Dr. hadn’t sent in any orders for me so we had to sit and wait for her to come in at 7:30. When she came in she checked me and I was a good 3cm and 75% effaced. They put in me on antibiotics for my Group B Strep and started me on pitocin. Every half hour they upped my pitocin. The contractions were strong but not strong enough. After about an hour on the pitocin I was up to 4cm but I then sat there for 2 hours. The dr. decided to break my water because she believed it would really kick up my labor… which it did. Within minutes of my water being broken I was in terrible pain. I could stand the contractions at that point and didn’t want to get an epidural too early but I was afraid I was going to dilate to a point where it would be too late for me to get one. I told the nurse how incredibly painful my last labor was even with my epidural that I was afraid I would pass out without one. She explained to me based on how I described my labor with Breckin that it sounded as if my epidural didn’t take and I actually gave birth without it. I told her that after I received my epidural they raised my legs in order to take the pressure off my cervix and the nurse said that that likely caused my epidural to settle in my chest and not in my lower region like it should have. This convinced her that I would be able to do this labor with an epidural… it didn’t convince me. Like a switch I was all the sudden in incredible pain and asked for my epidural. The dr. administering it took quite a long time to get to me and I had to work through extremely strong contractions without it. The nurse was an amazing couch. I was just about ready to push by the time the dr. came in. The nurse set up for me to push but I screamed for my epidural. I wasn’t going to do it without one! I was already feeling pressure, so once I got my epidural they let me “birth down,” meaning they let my body pull Bryce down on it’s own so I didn’t have to push as long. After about 30 minutes the Dr. came in and got me ready to push. They set up the mirror so I could watch Bryce come out. With Breckin I pushed for 3 hours. This time the doctor said our goal was minutes not hours. When I started to push she was coming out face up. Breckin was face up and it makes the pushing much harder. I continued to push and she did a big twist and we saw her turn over into the correct position. It was an amazing thing to see in the mirror. After pushing for about 10 minutes I reached down and pulled her out and onto my chest. I held her tightly as she cried. I cried. I was present at this birth. It was amazing. With Breckin I was so tired and in so much pain that I was in a completely different place when he was born. I got to pull him out onto my chest but I wasn’t really aware what was going on, and then all hell broke loose and I started to bleed. Everything was very calm this time around. It was beautiful. After a few minutes they took Bryce to do her APGAR test. The Dr. delivered my placenta and actually showed it to me and opened up the water sack that Bryce was in to show me that as well. It was amazing. It truly was a beautiful experience
Bryce weighed in at 9 pounds 8 oz. 2 oz less than Breckin and induced a week early.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Sorry for going so long without an update. Even though I have spent most of my time sitting on the couch holding Bryce and nursing, it's hard to type out long blog posts with one hand.

We have been home for over a week now. It has been an adjustment... for everyone, but we have really started to settle in. Bryce is a wonderful baby and we are all totally in love with her. She is the perfect addition to our family. She is calm and loves to be held and to snuggle. Which when translated means she refuses to be put down. I'm used to this behavior since Breckin was the same way. She is so beautiful. She has a full head of black hair and deep dimples in both cheeks and one in her chin. Her face looks exactly like Breckin's and she has the same amazing dark brown eyes.

Kevin returns to work on Tuesday and I am sure there will be a whole new set of adjustments that need to be made. The first few days home Breckin had a hard time staying calm around Bryce and was often too rough with her. It has been our focus this week to teach him the appropriate way of playing with his sister, so once I am home alone with him I wont have too many issues. I'm not going to lie he still has his moments, but for the most part he is adjusting well. It will be interesting to see what happens when Kevin is not around though. We have gathered a bunch of stuff to keep him entertained and so far they have been working. We understood from the beginning that he would be the one most affected by the change. Luckily, some of the issues that I was expecting haven't been an issue at all. I was fully expecting him revert with his potty training but he is a pro now and he hasn't had any accidents. Also, jealousy hasn't really become an issue, at least not yet. He really loves his sister and really wants her around... all the time. He wants to help and gets a lot of pleasure out of taking part in the care of his sister.

We have only run into a couple of health issues with Bryce so far (with Breckin it felt like we dealt with so much in the beginning, luckily he has turned out to be an extremely healthy child). She was tongue tied like Breckin and we have been dealing with a little jaundice. Her levels were not too high, so she didn't need light treatment but she does have a yellow cast and I have been instructed to nurse often... Bryce isn't protesting. It's taking a while for the jaundice to go away but I think I am see improvements. It's hard to say. We have another appointment for a weight check in on Monday. I am sure she will evaluate her levels again then.

When we left the hospital Bryce was weighing in at 9 pounds (she was 9 pounds 8 oz at birth). At her first doctor's appointment the next day she was down to 8 pounds 10 oz. They scheduled another appointment for this past Monday and she was already back up to 9 pounds. I can't imagine what she will be at her next appointment. She eats like crazy and my milk is abundant this time around. With Breckin it took my milk a week and half to come in.

Cloth diapering with the gDiapers has been a completely different than diapering with the Bumgenius'. The disposable inserts work great but our small cloth inserts apparently weren't conditioned well enough and the diapers leaked with every pee or poop. I did an oxyclean soak, then boiled them, then did three full washes. After that we had no more leaks! I was really frustrated at first but I really like them now. It's nice to only have to change the insert each time, rather than the whole diaper. Right now she is going through all of her cloth inserts (12) reach day, so I am having to do a diaper wash everyday. Once she is over 10 pounds she will be able to start wearing the bumgenius' and since Breckin is only wearing one diaper a day (to bed at night.. just in case) most of the sash will be available to her. Hopefully that will allow me go a day or more between washes. I am glad we made the decision to cloth diaper and I am very happy with my choices of brands.

I am loving being a mommy of two!! I was terribly afraid that I was going to suffer from PPD considering the depression that I dealt with this pregnancy but I feel great! I'm tired but my spirits are high. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bryce Nicole Neilson-Hall

Baby girl Born 4/17/2012 at 4:07pm. 9lbs 8oz (and a week earlier than her brother who was 9 pounds 10 oz).

Will post pictures later.

Here we go

9cm. Resting for a bit, then it's time to push.


Crystal is now resting after having received an epidural. Still moving forward but now she's much more relaxed. It got a little rocky there for a minute.

It's funny, from my perspective this is going almost exactly like Breckin's birth. But then again what do I know, I'm basically just a spectator.