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Voices From The Farm: The Sunroom Caper

1986, January

The Lamb and Wool Promotion Committee, now in its fourth year, was running like a well oiled machine. The many experienced members required less hands on participation from me. Outside of a couple strategy meetings to lay plans for the year, I stepped back and let Jeananne chair the committee. I still participated in a promotion from time to time, and remained active in the South East Minnesota Sheep Producer’s Association (SEMSPA).


Big Mumbo has quintuplets again!

The sheep flock kept growing and demanded a lot of my time. The lambing went well, and we had an absolute deluge of ewe lambs. This proved to be fortunate, as it turned out the demand for breeding stock was very high that year. “Big Mumbo” again had quintuplets, and all survived, but three were added to the bottle lamb pen. “Big Jumbo” only delivered twins this year, however our lambing average kept growing higher each year, and now was slightly over 200%.

Luckily for me, Sean had become a valued helper around the farm, and could take over many of the heavy lifts! With his strong mechanical bent, he was good at operating machinery, which I was not! I could handle an ATV and a 4′ mower, but that was about the extent of it, and even that could be a bit “hairy” at times!

Sean was a freshmen in high school, but found time to run a Bob Cat and clean the barn… a task I used to do with a manure fork and wheelbarrow, and which I was only too happy to relinquish.  He also hauled and unloaded hay, etc., and whenever  he was not in school, lent a hand at lambing time. In the spring and summer months he put in more hours, inter-seeding pastures, spreading manure, mowing, spraying thistles, trapping or poisoning pocket gophers (the “Minnesota Curse”), and this summer, tearing down our old South porch!


The finished sun room lives up to the vision…

For some time, I had been trying to come up with a solution to that porch! It was old and drafty… true, it broke the wind a bit, but it was a very cold place. Since it was attached to the kitchen, the cold found its way in there also, and our heat bills rose. Eventually, I found some information on sun rooms and thought that might be my answer. After much research, measuring, and planning, I determined that a 16′ square, 6 window Janco Sunroom would fit perfectly on the South side of our kitchen.

Of course, when I first broached this idea to my husband, he was less than supportive – in fact, downright discouraging! However, I was determined, and I ordered the Sunroom windows from Janco, hired a building contractor to erect the walls and ceiling of the room. All plans in place, it was time to tear down the old porch.

Sean was participating in demolishing the ceiling, when suddenly a brick was dislodged, fell and hit him squarely on the head! Although he was in pain for awhile, he was not seriously hurt and was soon back helping to tear down the porch.  Who the ‘know nothing” was that put a brick in the space between the ceiling and the roof, and to what purpose, we will never know.

There were plenty of trials and tribulations before the sun room was completed, but eventually it was finished, and it turned out beautifully. It is a step and a half down from the kitchen and has a tile floor. The 6 south facing windows have insulated shades to keep out the cold at night and on cloudy days, but on sunny days the shades are opened and the sun warms the tile floor.

A warm floor for the dogs to relax on!

A warm floor for the dogs to relax on!

The heat from the floor radiates out into the kitchen, and gradually to the rest of the first floor, and the furnace stops kicking in. The floor also has copper tubing installed in the concrete below the tile which can carry hot water from a mini boiler in the basement in a circuit which returns it to the boiler at the end of the circuit. This system is controlled by a thermostat, and we don’t usually need it unless we are having subzero weather, or a stretch of cloudy days.

As I write this, in February, 2013, I am sitting in the sun room in a comfortable patio chair, at a glass topped patio table, (which doubles as a writing table, or game table in the off months), and the sunlight is streaming in over my shoulder.  The room has a coat closet, a built in bookcase, a small comfy couch, and space for lots of house plants – 21 at this time, but many will be moving outdoors, once spring is definitely here. I have never regretted adding the sun room!

December – At SEMSPA’s Annual Sheep Day that year, I resigned as Chairperson of the Promotion Committee, and handed the reins into the capable hands of Jeananne Warner, who continued to do a terrific job!  After 4 years as Chairperson, and the 3 previous years as SEMSPA’s Secretary/Treasurer, at the age of 60 I needed a bit of a rest before I tackled something else!

Our breeding stock sales that year were great, 78 ewe lambs and 3 ram lambs went to other homes.  I also sold 12 locker lambs. The remainder of the market lambs were sold on the CornBelt Lamb Tele-Auction.

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2 comments to Voices From The Farm: The Sunroom Caper

  • Wow, isn’t it amazing how the sun can have such an effect on us? Both physically and psychologically too? It is also incredible the power it has to heat. I wish Minnesota would do more with harnassing that power of the sun. I too would have been very glad to turn over the barn cleaning duties. Did you ever have a lamb break a leg due to the gopher holes? Thanks for sharing the joys and trials of where our food comes from.

    • Lea McEvilley


      Thanks for your comments! You gave me a couple clues about some more things I should write about in the future, i.e., “barn cleaning,” and, no, I never had a lamb break a leg in a gopher hole, but I once had to rescue one from a badger hole, and that was scary!

      I totally agree that we should be doing more about solar power, I want to put solar panels on our south-facing garage rood and house roof, but it is still so expensive.

      If some of the huge handouts to the big oil and gas companies were channeled to the solar industry, we might get somewhere! Also waiting for wind power, and the “grid” is getting closer, but not here yet.

      My electric bill this month is 1/3 of my Social Security check. Ouch!