Friday, May 21, 2010

Wildlife: A great feature of our new house...


UPDATED: Added two more that we just spotted (raccoon and farm geese) and moved deer to the sited list... almost ran in to one as we drove on our road tonight!

Back when we owned the land our new house is built on, prior to construction, we used to drive to our land on Sundays after mass and just open our car windows and listen to the quiet, the wind blowing in the trees, and the birds singing. It's fairly rural in the surrounding area, with lots of open space, sod farms, and wetlands and we had hoped that once we moved in we'd be able to see and experience all sorts of different wildlife, and happily that has certainly been true! As a home-schooling family it's particularly fun to see lots of wildlife and be able to incorporate that into lessons for the kids. Here's a few of the animals we've seen so far...

Frogs are quite prevalent in the wetland area behind our home, and the most noticeable aspect is their croaking and singing together at night. It's great to have this soothing white noise outside to sleep to with our windows open. Oh,  and just the other day, the tiniest frog had somehow made it into our kitchen and the kids got a kick out of that. We brought it out back and left it to find it's way back to the wetland :-)

Ring-Necked Pheasant
A pheasant flew out of the grasses and right in front of my car as I was leaving for work.

A beautiful animal, we saw a fox trotting down our neighborhood street and cross the road as we were driving to mass on a Sunday morning. The funny part was, it was heading straight for these...

Our neighbors at the end of the road raise chickens in their backyard, something that's allowed in Ham Lake (Why not? Again, it's pretty rural). The kids have enjoyed going for walks down the road and looking at the chickens in their pen. Hopefully our friend up above didn't make a nice meal out of one of them!

Turkey sitings are literally a weekly occurrence around our place. They are all over, and easy to see since most of Ham Lake is sod farms. Usually we see them in large groups out on the sod, and even right in peoples' yards. Front what we've heard, these are not birds you want to get anywhere near, they are pretty ornery and territorial... and they're huge. It's lots of fun if you can catch a male puffing out all of his plumage though!

This is not one I would have expected, but lo and behold, there's a pond down at the other end of the road and the kids saw one of these guys out and about, gathering sticks for his house.

We haven't yet seen a Coyote, but you can hear them howling almost every single night if you keep the windows open. There have been numerous times we have actually been woken up by their howling, and it's not necessarily a nice sound to wake up to. They have a very moany, screamy kind of howl, and when they are in a big group (likely at an animal carcass) they are amazingly loud. From what I've heard, they are pretty scared of people and because of this they are very difficult to spot, especially in daylight.

OK, not wildlife, but our next door neighbors to the North have a HUGE purebred Newfoundland dog named "Seamus." He is very friendly and has often come out to see the kids when we go on a walk, and he bellows with his big, low bark. Did I mention he is huge? The kids could ride him like a horse.

Deer are all over the place and one recently left a nice trail of deep hoof-prints in our yard with newly seeded grass (how rude!). We also have seen a few; one was at night was we got close to our driveway, a car accident waiting to happen.

Just saw one of these scoot across the road as we approached our driveway, then we stopped the car and it just stared at us for a good 30 seconds before deciding we weren't that interesting anymore.

It was the strangest thing, but we saw a mother goose and her goslings walking down a gravel road about a mile South of our place, and these were not Canada Geese. These were good old fashioned farm geese (or free-range geese, or whatever they are called), and I can't remember ever seeing one just out in the wild. Maybe one of our farmer neighbors raises them, but they were out in the open. The mother goose was a big, plump, beautiful white just like the pic above.

There are others we've seen that I haven't included here, such as Blue Jays, Cardinals, and lots of other birds, and some equally interesting insects. I sense a birdwatching and entymology unit in the future for our home school!

Not yet spotted but it's only a matter of time...

Molly is just waiting for this one to happen. Even further, she is waiting for Aidan to pick one up and bring it into the house.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some new pics of the house...


We had our construction closing on May 7th, and are officially owners of our new house! It's been a while since I posted some pictures, so here's a bunch to show how the house looks currently.

(Click any to enlarge)

Probably for many, the first time seeing the house in white, and the first time seeing the brick. It had just rained (and we still don't have gutters, which are being installed later this month) so part of the brick is wet and you can see where the water drained down the facade. I don't know whether it's because of the white exterior or because of fairly flat, vertical siding, but sunlight coming through the trees casts super cool shadows on the house in the morning and evening. Here's a couple other views:

The hydroseeded lawn. We're hoping to see some green coming up soon!

(I can't wait for the grass to grow and the gutters to be installed so I can finally bother cleaning the bottom of the house all the way around!)

Here's the new rug in the foyer (made of more Flor carpet tiles), and it's hard to see but it acts as kind of an extension of the concrete sidewalk and runs between both exterior doors in the foyer.

New curtains for the front window sets (for privacy in the evening, and it's helpful for blocking the sun as it comes in from the West into the dining room right at supper time). 

Our piano in the school room, which needs a serious tuning and some love. Clara will start piano lessons this fall.

A new rug in the dining room (from Target).

Our cat Lucy finally makes it on to the internet.

New bar counter stools in the kitchen (from Ikea).

The sun is just awesome coming through the windows in the kitchen every morning. As you can see from the messiness, we live in the real world :-)  Behind the house is just gorgeous right now as everything fills in with green leaves, and there are constantly birds singing in the day and frogs croaking at night.

Really, some of my favorite things about participating in the design and construction of the home are concentrating on the small details. One example is house numbers and our mail box. I ordered special house numbers online that have a more modern font and fit with the steel/nickel finishes of all of our metal fixtures. These numbers are also set off from the face of the home (instead of being flush) so that they cast a cool shadow at night.

For the mailbox, I did my normal thing and searched ceaselessly on the internet until I got a great deal on an awesome mailbox that stands out in design. It has a secure holding area for the mail that requires a key to access. I also selected mailbox numbers to match in font to the main house numbers.

Some final night views before signing off...

There's more to show of course, and other rooms that have been significantly updated. I'll stop here and leave more for another time. God bless!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010



Though it wasn't in the construction budget to get sod installed, after living in our new home for even a few days it was clear we were going to need to get some sort of lawn in this year. Almost every night is "bath night" here at the Koop household, because when you have a big dirt pile for a yard and the kids need to play outside, a nightly bath is just something you have to live with. So what to do? Sod was too expensive for us (despite the fact that practically half of Ham Lake is made up of sod farms due to the good soil conditions), and I knew from past experience that hand seeding with a push spreader was not going to be reliable enough to be worth it. In the end, the best compromise was to have our yard area hydroseeded. 

Hydroseeding involves a multi-step application process consisting of machine raking the soil, seeding, applying a fertilizer, and covering with a mulch mixed with a "tackifier" that helps keep the seed moisturized and protects the seed from wind or other disturbances. Hydroseeding is generally 50-80% less money than sod (and my pricing confirmed that), and yet, if done properly and with regular watering during growing, can produce results similar to sod. Typically it's about 4 weeks to the first mowing.

I was able to get bids from three different hydroseeding companies and select one that had a middle of the road price and a great track record and who was also willing to spread a layer of black dirt around for free (provided we get some black dirt trucked in). Here's a video of the company who did our hydroseeding (Hydroseeding Creations) showing their process...

And here's a gallery of their before and after results for tons of projects. One example...

We were able to get them out here to seed our lawn yesterday, just before rain started (and hasn't stopped for 24 hours). Looks like everything has stayed in place despite the rain and we won't have to water for a while! I'll post some exterior pics as soon as it's dry enough to take a few.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A very holy first Eucharist...


We are extremely proud of our eldest, Clara, not only for being who she is but especially because she has great spiritual maturity for her age. We have seen this in her for years, and she's only almost 8 (in June). She has always approached her faith and pursuit of holiness with such reverence and seriousness and purpose, it's at times amazing to witness. So, when Clara's first Eucharist approached, we knew this would be the highlight of her year, and indeed she was sooooo excited! Molly and I were both privileged to teach Clara's first sacraments class at the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake, MN and were able to see her grow in her appreciation for the Eucharist and for the sacrament of reconciliation throughout the year. As each passing day went by, getting closer and closer to her first Eucharist, she talked about it more and more until it was basically all she talked about for a few weeks straight. She also knew how important this moment would be for her faith, and how this physical reception of Christ into her body must be accompanied by (and would aid) an ever-growing spiritual acceptance of Christ into her heart and soul. 

With all this background, enjoy these pictures of Clara's first Eucharist! (Thanks to my sister Allison who took great pictures AND made Clara's dress)

(Click any pictures to enlarge)

Our class of first communicants processing in (that's Molly and I on the left, Clara is second in line)...

Clara's Godfather, uncle Evan, served at the mass.

Clara brought up the gifts with other first communicants...
Clara receiving her first Eucharist...

Molly getting a little teary :-)

Clara back at home at her party, receiving some gifts...

Clara's even more excited to go to every mass now!