We’ve put down roots!

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I think my first post back can be summarized in a series of emojis, most of which would just be a variety of crying/worried faces and ecstatic faces, followed by an exhausted face. Exhausted is where we are now, because we’ve finally moved!

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I last left you hanging with hopeful thoughts about a previous home – all in all, since we met our realtor this past January, we’ve browsed hundreds of homes online, seen dozens in person, and tried to buy FOUR homes. Yes, four. And that comes to the point of why I stopped writing this summer – between grad school and my emotional instability from swinging from ecstatic excitement to utter disappointment, I was more in the mood to live under a blanket and sleep rather than face the stress. I had zero motivation and zero interest in writing or doing anything but attempting to hold on to my cats for emotional support.

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My moving helpers. 

Thankfully, the fourth home came through for us – and it’s probably the nicest and most well-kept option we had seen. I’ve previously discussed what Evan and have been looking for in a homestead, and while this house doesn’t have the acreage, it has the beautiful patio, blank backyard ripe for gardening, and plenty of space for the three of us (me, Evan, and Evan’s mother) to spread out and enjoy a variety of spaces. We have a formal dining room, an ample studio space in the basement, a two-car garage, gorgeous patio, front parlor, and a master bathroom off our bathroom (this is one of my favorite spaces!).

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We love our patio time – and I love my cat mug. 
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Olivia is testing out the fireplace ledge. 

We’ve already experienced our first power outage and survived happily with the help of some oil lamps my mother gifted us, but we found out that our fire alarms work a little too well – the little bit of smoke that comes off the lamps set them off! There’s a lot of little things to get used to – stuff like the heat settings on the stove to the white carpet (and yes, my cats have christened this multiple times…). It’s been an adventure, and we’re so proud and excited to finally be homeowners and to be happily located in a central location for both our jobs.

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I fondly call this dining room the Audubon Parlor – the wallpaper is flush with birds!

 

Our plans for our suburban homestead include developing narrow beds with no till practices, building a chicken coop in the spring and adding a couple of chickens to our family, developing our patio with permaculture like blueberries and blackberries plus herbs, and so much more. We’ve been outside on our gorgeous patio almost every night, enjoying the beautiful sounds of the night insects and cicadas, even here in the heart of our town. Welcome to the suburban Epperson homestead!

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Who Rescued Who?

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It’s high time I introduced our cats to everyone! These two sweethearts have our hearts wrapped around their little claws, and you’ll only see more and more of them as our homestead journey continues.

This summer marks year 2 with Olivia and year 4 with Cattigan, and no, they aren’t siblings. These goofballs have become fast friends (as evidenced by their occasional brawls and excessive amounts of cuddling) thanks to some careful introductions.

Cattigan is our senior cat, somewhere around age 11, and he’s a big softie. When we first brought him home from the store where he was a store cat, the big guy clocked in at a whopping 18 pounds! Thanks to a steady diet, his hyperactive sibling, and an unfortunate spat with diabetes this winter, he’s dropped down closer to 12 pounds and is back to chasing squirrels and prancing around. His old name used to be Caesar, and he is very much our little prince – he tucks his paws in, sits with his chest puffed out and proud, and chirps at us all day long. His meow is a strange one – he makes more of a sound between a “bruff” and a “mehrow” that is a little rough around the edges, but is very signature “Cattigan.”

Catti had a rough start to life – he was raised in a house full of cats that stressed him out and made him terrified of not getting fed enough, so he ate everyone’s food and got very fat very quickly. When he lived at a store downtown, he got affection when he was fed once a day, but his poor owners were allergic to him and couldn’t bring him out into the store very often, so he spent most days lonely and craving attention.

IMG_1288When he came home with us, he had a pretty severe eating disorder – come dinner, he’d refuse to eat and cry unless you sat with him and petted him, and once settled he’d wolf down the food so quickly he’d vomit it right back up. The poor guy ended up needing his food spread into four meals a day and lots of petting and encouragement to finally find the perfect balance of food and affection without the terror of never being fed again.

Nowadays, he’s living a happy, comfortable retirement, spending his days sleeping next to the warm vents in the house or curled up in our laps. Our big teddy bear loves his humans, that’s for sure!

Our spunky Olivia came home from the humane society with a nasty kennel cough, rough fur, an insane energy level, and a timid loyalty for her new humans. When we adopted her, her name was “Lucky” – she was rescued as a stray and had a litter of kittens with her, and the poor girl was barely a year old! Cattigan got his name as a play on “The Great Mouse Detective” – the big bad rat, voiced by Vincent Price, was named Rattigan, so our cat became Cattigan. That meant that our next kitty needed to follow in the same family, so we picked Olivia, after the little girl mouse that gets kidnapped in the movie. (If you know the movie, we joke that the next kitty ought to be named “Fidget” and be a three-legged, black cat – special cats need the most love, after all!)

Sweet Olivia took nearly six months to fully warm up to us and balance her diet so her skin and fur could improve, but now she is my loyal bedtime companion and practically beats Cattigan to the door to greet us when we get home. She is a spunky girl that chirps and paws after birds through the window and even has her own dedicated wall stairs for climbing and adventuring.

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Human is not amused by parrot-cat.

She loves to patrol the garage for mice and ride on her humans like a parrot, rocket through the living room and roll in the dirt outside. Her energy peaks and troughs are hilarious to watch – she will be bounce around the house like a rubber band, but when she’s down to sleep she’s as limp as a rag doll. Wake her up too soon and she sleepily blinks at you and drags herself into the living room to stare at you with heavy lids and slow limbs. She’s not a delicate thing, by any means, often sitting with feet spread apart like she’s ready to bolt at any moment, but she can weave under furniture, bound over tables, ricochet off walls, and change directions mid-air.

These two rescued goofballs bring light and cuddles to our home, and we are so grateful we get to share our lives with them! “Who rescued who?”, indeed!

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New Patio Additions

Thanks to my amazing mother, we have a new patio set for the next season – solid, rust-proof steel and seating for six. With warmer temperatures ahead, we may find it even more difficult to stay inside with the cats. And we all know how much they hate the sunshine and fresh air… 

New Sewing Projects

There’s nothing quite so satisfying as making something by hand.

I’m no master sewer by any means – I’d barely qualify myself as a crafter. I value the ability to craft my own items rather than purchase them and to conceptualize how projects can be formed by its smaller pieces and the process of assembly. I’ve found myself studying my bookshelf, a cheap purchase that is held together one of those cardboard backs and tacks, and theorizing how to best build one of our own. Making something from scratch helps you appreciate how items are held together and the purpose of each step in the creation process.

The last two weekends I picked a couple of simple projects for around the house – a couple of outdoor throw pillows and a floor cushion for the living room.

Last year, I took an old sofa frame that my husband used in his dorm room and painted and waterproofed it for our patio. This year, I wanted a softer touch to the basic frame and simple brown cushion – some throw pillows would do nicely! img_1595

I picked up a couple of pillows for sale at JoAnn’s and some outdoor fabric – while nothing explicitly stated that it was waterproof, I think these will be great additions for when we’re outside enjoying our garden and they’re easy to toss inside to stay out of the rain.

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My new throw pillows with a cup of my favorite black tea – complete with a big slice of lemon! 

When I settle in for school work and need to spread out, I enjoy sitting on the floor with papers and books scattered all over my coffee table and floor. (The kitties love all the crinkly paper to roll on, too.) I usually pull up a cat cushion to sit on but I don’t much prefer all the hair that follows me around afterwards. So, why not a floor cushion so Momma doesn’t have to steal the kitties’ pillow?

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Now the kitties can steal Momma’s cushion instead!

This project I conceptualized on my own – remember those paper dice we made at school as kids, where you cut out the series of squares and folded them together to glue into the cube?  I made this floor cushion the same way.

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Olivia brought me a toy for encouragement – this stringy spider friend cheered me on from it’s spot on the rug. 

This project could have easily gotten out of control in price had I filled it with piles and piles of fluff and batting. Thankfully, I’d recently cleaned out my fabric bin of scraps and bits that were unusable and created a stash bag of leftover fabric for just this project. All of the extra t-shirt scraps from my t-shirt quilt? Lumped together in a big pile of fabric. I stuffed all of these into my cushion and, therefore, eliminated the need to purchase bags and bags of poly-fill. I did buy one bag to soften the outsides of the cushion by surrounding the scrap fabric in a layer of fluff, much like the layer of sweet and juicy pineapple fruit surrounds the less desirable and bulky core.

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Now, I have a special spot of my own in the living room – when Cattigan and Olivia aren’t occupying it themselves, of course.

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Happy sewing!

Time to Explore

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The calendar says we are still weeks away from spring, but our cats assure us that spring is most assuredly here. They beg by the back door to be let out into the warm air, rotate from window to window in search of warming sunshine, and stare in fascination at the growing flock of birds that frequent our feeders outside our front window. This morning the three of us – Cattigan, Olivia, and I – ventured out into the unusual warmth to do a little spring tidying out back.

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Early buds on our lilac bush.

We mulched many of our potted plants with leaves and sheltered them by the house from the worst of the cold winds this winter (and even then, we didn’t have many). This fall, my husband raked a bunch of our oak tree leaves into a DIY cage up-cycled from some old fencing wire so we can always have mulch at our disposal – we fell in love with using grass clippings on our garden beds to add nitrogen and this summer we might mix in some leaves as well. We tend to get very hot and dry in August and September, and our poor cucumbers can use all the help they can get to shelter their roots from the heat.

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I spent some time raking out the leaves from the woodpile and straightening up the logs, while the cats lounged and explored. Olivia has a new favorite task – she loves patrolling the neighboring fences and rolling in any dirt patches she can find. The cats only go out under our watchful gaze – we don’t need any “presents” or complaints from the neighbors about digging into garden beds, plus it’s bad for the bird population to allow the cats to kill for pleasure rather than need. (Trust me, they’re well-fed.) Here, on the outskirts of town, we get the occasional coyote visitor and birds of prey, and while I don’t worry about my hefty Cattigan I do worry about how petite Olivia will fare against a hawk.

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Olivia, mid-roll in the dirt.

Tomorrow, our task will be to sort and turn our compost pile. We take any organic matter from our kitchen – egg shells, onion peels, wilted spinach, juicing remains, coffee grounds, tea leaves, you name it – and deposit it into this giant compost pile. If you haven’t invested in a compost bin, I cannot recommend it enough; we store all of our kitchen scraps (no meat) in a sealable container in the kitchen, and when it gets full we take it out to the yard and dump it in this bin. Every few months you should turn the pile and make sure that it stays moist so the decomposition process can move speedily along. Adding compost to your garden is one of the best fertilizers you can give it, and it’s absolutely free. It gives new purpose to your kitchen scraps, and the chopped up taco topping leftovers that you left in the fridge for too long no longer stare guiltily up at you from the bottom of your trashcan – they return back to the earth they came from and give your plants new life.

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This bin is one of the cheapest I’ve found in the process of looking at building or buying our own – when we purchased it, it cost $30 on Amazon. “Geobin” is made of 50% recycled plastic and comes as a roll of mesh that you open to your desired width and hold together with plastic keys on one side. Unless you’re sticking your nose over the top of the pile, there is absolutely no smell with this open air compost – I can be standing right next to it and not notice it is there. It’s a big capacity bin, holding up to 216 gallons and measuring 4 feet in diameter, as you can see with Cattigan as a size comparison in the picture above. I highly recommend checking this one out! We purchased our Geobin from Amazon here.

Cattigan and I checked on our crop of garlic from last October – we planted some hard neck garlic and let it overwinter, and these last few weeks of warm temperatures have made them thrive. Their bright green stalks shot through the leaves and they basked in the sunlight after I fertilized them with some of our smelly fish fertilizer. (The cats always sniff the bottle very curiously when it comes out of the cabinet!)

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When our garden is full to bursting, we’ll find the cats navigating the maze of tomato plants and investigating the strange smells of peppers and bean flowers. They love to lounge on our warm patio stones and sniff the breeze – we can’t wait for more warm days that we can spend outside as a family to relax and explore what we’ve grown and cared after.

 

But now, for a nap.

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