Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving Cleanup

Mild temperatures and an ambitious brother-in-law meant the opportunity to continue the cleanup of Cedar trees in the rear of the property. With loppers, hatchet, and ax in hand for a few hours we managed to clear out approximately 100 Cedars that were choking out native grasses and flowers. Even the boys got involved dragging the trees to piles.

The trees will likely winter in the piles and dry out, then come early Spring when the opportunity arises we will burn them. I'll also have to decide how many of the larger Cedars closer to the house I want to remove and establish a plan to regularly remove new growth cedars as they are sure to grow given established trees exist on neighboring properties. All for a better prairie!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Woodworking: Finished Bedroom Set

It has been done for awhile, but I realized the finished master bedroom set that my wife & I worked on was never posted. I have a prior post which discussed the bed frame and headboard, but since then we added on two Ikea bedside tables which were finished to match. A great start to a few of the master suite refinishing plans we have! Take a look and let us know what you think...

Sunday, November 13, 2016


It may only be mid-November, but since Halloween has passed and the Fall decorations are already on the downward slide to be removed post-Thanksgiving my wife decided that the Christmas tree can be assembled. The fact that we have an entire family room separate from the living room that allows us much more space may be a large contributing factor too. Our previous home required us to remove a piece of furniture from the living room to have the tree up.

The boys also had to trek outside after dark to watch the combine harvest up beans across the road. Even in the dark and a bit chilly wouldn't stop these boys from watching some big machines.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Throwing Leaves...

With a fantastic Fall day the youngest boy enjoyed some time outdoors this morning playing in the leaves. With our abundance of trees in the yard the boys finally have some they can play in; Our prior home had two sad Maples that didn't provide much in the way of Fall leaves. Little things that you can take for granted, and that provide such simple joy.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Fall Sunset & Our 'New' Truck!

A couple of weekends ago we made a quick trek up to Iowa to make a big purchase, our first truck! It isn't anything special, but it will be great to have at least one 4WD vehicle as we head into winter in the country and the hauling capacity will be much improved for our projects. Here she sits in our yard:

And while we are enjoying some beautiful sites (haha!) here is a look at tonight's sunset near the pond:

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween Costumes

My wife Alyssa loves the opportunity to use her crafting skills and creative ideas. Halloween has become one such opportunity to get the entire family into an ensemble of costumes, and the planning comes plenty early as she is already talking about 2017 ideas. For this year we played on the "Bee Movie" that all three of the boys have been stuck on watching, and the concept that my wife considers herself the queen bee of the household being the only female. So our costumes consisted of the three boys being bees, in homemade tie dyed shirts, my wife being a queen bee, complete with crown, and myself as a bee catcher in full suit and all. Needless to say it was a hit with many folks offering up compliments to us at the town parade and trick or treating. We also ventured to "Boo at the Zoo" in Topeka and got a bit more tham we bargained for being interviewed by WIBW, the local CBS affiliate in Topeka.

You can view the story (and video if available) here:

Our family prior to the Mayetta, Kansas Halloween parade:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Halloween Pumpkin Painting

My wife has had a few of the Fall and Halloween decorations out for a few weeks now, and we've had a few bouts of Fall-like weather during that time. The trees are nearing peak with numerous yellow and a few orange leaves mixing in with the browning colors of other plants. We've made our visit to the pumpkin patch, and now we've finished our pumpkin painting.

My wife has her 'Queen Bee' pumpkin, and the boys and I decided on a variety of super heroes for ours. The boys, even at ages 7, 5, and 3, likely did as good of a job as I did.

And now they're prominently displayed on the front porch.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Football, Telescopes, and Pumpkins!

It didn't seem like it was that busy of a weekend, but looking back I guess we did quite a bit during a regular ol' weekend. We started off attending another high school football game, and saw our Royal Valley pull off their second win of the season. Of importance the team is 2-0 when we are in attendance, and 0-4 when we are not. Brayden and his first grade classmates got the privilege of singing the national anthem before the game.

Saturday morning the boys and I headed into the back acre and cut down around 40 Cedar trees ranging from 1 to 5 years old. Sadly this cleared less than 1000 square feet, so there's a few hundred trees left to go. Saturday evening I took the two oldest boys up to the Banner Creek Observatory as they were having an open house to observe the moon. There were several amateur astronomers who brought their personal equipment to view the moon, and the boys loved looking through all of them. The big show was viewing the moon through the observatories 20 inch RCOS telescope shown below (image from their website). For a general perspective this scope has a magnification range of 63 to 627 times, and has a cool price tag in the range of $40,000 to $55,000. The boys were impressed by seeing all of the craters and details of the moon!

And finally we ventured off on Sunday to the Schaake Pumpkin Patch to grab some pumpkins and enjoy other activities. They have a playground, a small hay bale maze, and a few animals, alongside 30 acres of pumpkins with free tractor rides to/from. They may not have numerous activities, but they are priced right, FREE! A few collages of that fun are below...

Monday, October 3, 2016

Anniversary Weekend...

Todays marks 7 years of marriage for Alyssa and I, and 12 years of 'officially' being together after I asked her to be my girl at 12:15am on October 3, 2004. We've ventured off to Kansas City for my first career job, lived in an apartment, bought our first home, had 3 children, bought a dog, and moved to our second home together earlier this year after I made a career move in mid-2015. The only questionable decision we've made was the dog, okay she's only questionable 5-10% of the time.

So what do you do for your anniversary weekend? You head to town with all three boys in tow, stop at a store or two, go out to eat at Steak N Shake, and then head to your first hockey game! At least that is what we did this past weekend, alongside a few tasks at home and another venture to the creeks down the road and the pond out back.

The hockey game was a junior level team (18-22 year olds) named the Topeka Roadrunners, as they took on the Amarillo Bulls in a North American Hockey League matchup. The boys enjoyed watching something new, and the middle one wouldn't take his eyes off the ice always looking for certain players and clapping when necessary after the Roadrunners scored. The oldest even came away with a game used puck. We will definitely head back to another game before their season is over!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Manual Labor...

With the most recent bout of heavy rain last Friday night we saw our driveway deteriorate as water ran down it towards the ditch. While there is new 1.5 inch rock near the end of the driveway next to the cement plant the beginning half or more is lacking in the larger rock and is more sand and small stone. Left with some decent ruts and gullies, and an extended stretch of dry weather that would let the rocks compact the boys and I have spent some time in the late afternoon filling in some spots with extra rock. Perhaps it was using the shovels, or probably more the use of the dump wagon, but all three boys put in the help of some manual labor.

There's probably more spots that deserve fresh rock, and in reality the drive should be higher than the surrounding grass with a few more inches of driveway rock, for now this will do.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

First Day of Fall

While meteorologists and climatologists often refer to Fall beginning on September 1st, the Fall Equinox occurred this morning and brought the first day of Fall. With sunny skies and a high temperature in the low 90s the day certainly didn't feel like Fall here in northeast Kansas. That said, we have had a few days where the temperature stuck in the 70s, humidity remained low, and overnight saw the mercury fall into the 50s. One detail that is always noticeable is the loss of daylight hours. Leaving in the morning is now dark, and after finishing dinner the sun is already beginning it's descent below the horizon.

In the end I think we are all looking forward to those comfortable afternoons with the windows open and the breeze blowing through. Being surrounded by numerous tree varieties will hopefully provide some color to the leaves as they begin to change. Our walnut and honey locust trees have already begun their change, turning yellow as somewhat shown in my picture below.

My wife will certainly mourn the loss of her hummingbirds as they take the journey south for the winter. But, many other birds will become more noticeable including our Cardinals, Blue Jays, and numerous Sparrows. We have even managed to see a Oriole and Goldfinches this past weekend, likely on their journey southward. Grasses are becoming showy and dropping seeds, and with time should begin to sit down and allow some easier cleaning and clearing of our back acres (there are plenty of cedar and sumac to clear). Wildflowers are dwindling with only a few late season bloomers holding on, but dropping their seeds as they dry will help set the stage for next years color.

Plenty of outdoor projects that can still be competed, the fun is in how many of them can actually be completed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Friday Football, House Guests, & Antenna TV

Wait, it's Wednesday... But I'll post a bit about last weekend and look forward to the next weekend anyway.

We started off heading to the local high school for the Friday night football game. The team was looking for their first win, and touchdown, of the year and thankfully came away with both. The boys were able to keep some of their attention on the game, and it was a nice cool evening for football.

Saturday we welcomed our first house guests other than family into our home, a former co-worker of mine and her significant other. They've babysat the boys before so they knew what they were coming into with noises and running abound.

Sunday I had a few things on my to-do list but they were quickly overshadowed by a different project, installing a TV antenna. We 'cut the cord' with cable many years ago and have survived with Roku and Internet to watch shows and movies, plus a little indoor antenna for local channels. Well our new house is a bit more secluded from the big city, so we were struggling to grab more than 3 stations with our little indoor antenna. So, the middle boy and I went off to the store and purchased an outdoor/attic mount antenna and 50 feet of coax. Prior owners had Dish, so there is coax that is ran into three rooms, however only one was easily traceable.

A few hours of work later, some of which in a stifling attic, we took the easy route this go around and had the antenna installed, coax ran down into basement, and then over and up into our living room. We now pull in every main TV station plus a host of others, I believe near 35 total over the air. With time as we add more TVs (maybe) I will get an amplifying splitter, remove and reuse the prior coax to get it to all of the rooms necessary.

Up next this weekend? We may finish off our bedside tables for the master bedroom, do some pickup in the back acres, and I'm sure manage something fun for the boys. That is of course all a bit sensitive to the potential for heavy rain late Saturday into Sunday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

More Water...

We have came upon another wet pattern with 3.66 inches of rain within the past 48 hours; 2.87 inches of that occurring this morning. The nearby creek overflowed its banks again, and managed some water over the gravel road for a while.

We ventured back to the pond to enjoy the high water, and captured a few snapshots of the boys. And a sunset too!


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Labor Day Festivities

The three day Labor Day weekend meant a trip up to Iowa for the family to take in the longest running Labor Day celebration in the state. Yes, Graettinger, Iowa has been celebrating the holiday since 1896 and has carnival rides shutting down the length of main street, street dance, games, tractor pull, and much more during the three day weekend.

The boys took on the carnival rides going down the huge slide, and taking a ride on a mini roller coaster. A local family also rode their horses into town and allowed the boys to sit and ride on them, which may have been the highlight for the oldest. We also took in a few pulls during the tractor pull; What kind of boy (or guy) doesn't like watching tractors? We also managed to win two kids bikes during their drawings for the two youngest, they've now each won twice meanwhile the eldest boys remains shutout (he wasn't very pleased).

We also celebrated birthdays for the two youngest while in the neighborhood of most of our family. This meant another cake decorating for the wife and I - I think we are doing pretty good.

We jumped straight into the week upon arriving home. With sunflowers reaching their peak and rain in the forecast we headed out for some family photos Tuesday. I've still got to pull them off the 'good' camera and process them, but for now here's a quick snapshot of the field.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Wildflower Identification: Button Blazing Star

During our adventure through the mud and back the pond we came across a few of these flowers, most of which were just starting to bloom. The plant photographed below was the most mature, and thus offered the most color.

The Button Blazing Star is related to a prior wildflower identified back in July, the Prairie Blazing Star. It may also be referred to as the Tall Blazing Star, Button Gayfeather, or Tall Gayfeather. The Button Blazing Star features numerous flowers, often 16 to 40 dependent upon the height, and grows to be 16 to 48 inches tall. It is a native plant to the state of Kansas, and most often found in the eastern half of the state blooming from late August into early October. Commonly found in drained to dry soils, it is drought tolerant, and handles part to full sun.

Take a look at this unique looking purple flower below:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Full Pond...

It has been a rainy latter half of August here at the house with 8.12 inches of rain since 19 August. All of that rain has led to some tall grass, soft dirt, and a very full pond. We ventured back this evening through the mud to take a look, and gather a few photos of the wildflowers and pond along the way.

My wife, like any good photographer, took every step needed to get the shot she wanted.

And here are a few of my panoramics taken just prior and during sunset.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Puddle Jumping

A slow moving cold front and disturbance to the west has left us in an active pattern of showers and thunderstorms. Strong storms Tuesday night provided 1.85 inches of rain, and another thunderstorm Wednesday evening dropped 0.60 inches of rain. It's raining again this morning, and more rounds are expected each day through the weekend and perhaps beyond. With all the weather talk out of the way, here's what you came here to see...

After the rain Wednesday evening I convinced the boys to get their boots on and head out into the puddles. The two youngest were the most ambitious, but all three eventually waded into the standing or lightly running water. Here's a few photos of the action, but the animated GIF is best of all as the youngest couldn't quite stick the landing.

Monday, August 22, 2016

How old are our trees?

We've got plenty of trees and tree varieties on our 3 acres thanks to the nearby lowlands and creek. We cut down quite a few dilapidated or dead earlier this summer, and have been trimming more to ensure quality growth. A good question is how old are the trees? The house has only been here since 2008 and I know that very few of the trees were planted with the home; I actually believe just two were planted since then.

Well the 'easy' way to age a tree is to count the tree rings after you cut it down, but you may want to know the age without losing the tree. Instead you can take a core sample of a tree, which is much like coring an apple. This lets you view the tree rings without cutting the whole tree down, but can still damage the tree and invite disease if not sealed properly.

Another way, age the tree by measuring the diameter of the tree and using a growth factor to estimate how long your tree has stood there. The International Society of Arboriculture developed growth factors for numerous trees provided below:

A few quick steps and some math will give you an answer. Measure the trees circumference with a flexible measuring tape, take the circumference and divide by 3.14159 (pi) to obtain the diameter. Subtract from your diameter if your tree has thick bark to get a final diameter, then multiply for the growth factor found in the table above and you have your estimated age!

In our case we measured a black walnut, and ended up with a circumference of 46 inches. 46 divided by 3.14159, equals 14.64. We took off 2 inches as our Walnut had thick and dense bark for a final diameter of 12.64. Multiple 12.64 times the 4.5 growth factor to get just under 57 years old! How cool is that?! 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Weekend Work...

A successful weekend of accomplishing tasks is complete! We finished up our bed frame and headboard on Saturday, which if you haven't seen you must, check it out here:

Today the boys and I headed out to trim up a few trees with loppers and yard wagon. We managed quite a few wagon loads of branches that were low hanging or just needed trimmed for the health of the tree. Along the way we picked an apple from the tree out front, this tree wasn't planted best we can tell as a home hasn't been here more than 8 years or so and this tree is likely 20 years old. On the same note while trimming along the fenceline we came upon a pear, and sure enough there is a pear tree too!

We also took a visit to the pond and saw the usual abundance of frogs, spiders, and dragonflies. Got a nice little family picture too!

Finished off the weekend getting the garage a little more organized and cleaned. And of course the boys had plenty of time to run around, bike, jump, and swing. The two oldest boys both go to school tomorrow!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Woodworking: Bed Frame & Headboard

My wife & I needed a new mattress as we were sleeping on one that was at least 15 years old. She has always wanted to get a king size bed, I said we didn't really need a king size bed, so we got a king size bed. Now comes the dilemma of what to do for a bed frame, and do we need a box and mattress? My wife also wanted a headboard as we have never had one, and enjoyed the idea of a rustic wood almost pallet-like headboard. So after venturing around the internet we came upon a neat looking idea and decided to conquer the task of building it all by ourselves. We used basic dimensional lumber, usually pine or 'whitewood', and used my kreg jig to fasten the bed frame together. My wife was responsible for staining using a Dark Walnut stain, brushing on then wiping off to bring out the wood grain and varying the darkness.

This process took quite a while, getting a layer of stain on, then three coats of a polyacrylic finish with the usual wait time and sanding in between. Side note, the polyacrylic was used as it is water-based and doesn't have near the fumes as other finishes can. As this was being finished I managed to put the frame together and the slats for the mattress to sit on.

The bed frame is made with 2x8 for sides, 1x3 for accent edge, 4x4 for legs, 2x4 and 1x2 for matress support and slats. Not a bad start, but the headboard was next which was made with 1x6 and 1x3 and attached to the wall using 2x6 cut at angles. The headboard is made with varying lengths of boards to give it a neat rustic look and as I mentioned previously the stain was brushed and wiped to give it a varying darkness.

And the finished product, including accents above the headboard to complete the bedroom wall. Let us know what you think! Matching bedside tables are likely next on the list.