RSS Feed

Category Archives: home

The best day for it

If I had to get locked out of the house in February, this was the right day for it to happen. The sunshine makes the unseasonably warm 58 degrees feel just perfect. The birds are chirping happily, and just beyond the pasture where seven horses graze, the corn stubble simmers in the afternoon light. A perfectly blue sky is a canopy above me.

I admit, I am awfully hungry, and my back aches a bit from sitting in this wooden lawn swing for the last two hours. But all things considered, being locked out of the house hasn’t been nearly as bad as it could have been.

Still, we should have another key made so we can hide it outside.

Just a little patience…

g1364268831720007109

No one has ever accused me of being too patient.

Never in my life has anyone said, “You know, Karen, I think you might be the most patient person in the world.”

So the fact that, after two and half years of living in a double-wide trailer, there is still no visible evidence that we’re building a house.

Meanwhile, more shingles blow off the roof with every wind storm and I swear the floors are getting more uneven every month.

Still, there are definite benefits of taking it slowly.  We’ve been thinking a lot more about making the house off-grid, or at least using as much alternative energy as possible.  Solar, wind, wood, and propane would be our main sources of energy.  But that means researching types of solar panels (did you know there were different types?), different types of wind turbines, and even wood cookstoves.  We also need to think about what electricity-hogging appliances we’re willing to do without.  I have already learned that it would be a lot easier for me to give up the dishwasher than the microwave.  (Without a microwave, I’d have to plan ahead a lot better for thawing meat for dinner or for reheating leftovers for lunch.)  I’m totally cool with hanging our laundry on the line when it’s warm and sunny, but what about months like January and February?  Or those weeks when the perfect line-drying weather comes on Tuesday or Thursday when I’m working, and on the weekends the deluge comes?

It’s a different mindset for sure, but one we’re entertaining.

In the meantime, I just have to be a little more patient.  And hope the shingles stay on the roof.

School’s Out!

Posted on

The weather’s hot, the grass is growing, and teachers around the city are beginning to relax.

Yesterday was my last day of school for the year.  Hooray!  I have approximately 10 weeks to sleep late, go to the bathroom any time I want/need (without waiting for passing periods), eat when I’m hungry (rather than only at 12 noon), and do those things I’ve been putting off.

So maybe you’ll see more blog posts from me.  Things have been happening on the homestead — animals born, others butchered, progress on the house-building, fruit ripening.  But I also have a lot to do this summer.  I agreed to develop an orientation program for new teachers at our school, and I need to write curriculum for the second year of my two-year honors class.  There are home chores — cleaning the chicken coop and the rabbit barn, putting a cover on the pool and taking down the fence, reorganizing the guest room closet.  I picked the first strawberries today, and there will be raspberries and blackberries ripening soon.  There are little green cherries and little green peaches on our trees.  Then the rest of the garden will start to be ready to harvest.

I want to write, knit, and draw up plans for a tree house / writing studio.

There is a lot of stuff to cram into 10 weeks.

I hope to make the most of the time.

Deadline

Last week, I got up and found that the house was pretty chilly. When I checked the thermostat, it read 60 degrees. I was sure that I hadn’t set it lower than 62, but I checked anyway. Nope, it was set at 63, just as I had thought. Concerned, I bumped the temperature up to 65. Nothing happened. I turned the thermostat off, then back on again. The furnace kicked on, called for heat, and then promptly shut off. I tried again and got the same results.

Well, crud.

I left a note for Husband who was still asleep when I left for work (and I piled more blankets on top of him since it was 59 degrees in the house by the time I departed), and he called the repairman. The igniter was cracked, and that was about a $350 fix. The repairman mentioned that the motor is really loud, and that at some point we should consider replacing it as well. Husband asked, “Will it last five more years?” Probably, he was told.

So, the furnace has about five years left in it. The septic tank has about five years left. The windows get condensation on them in the spring and fall, and that turns to ice when the weather gets really cold. There’s mold under the house, and on the last really windy day, several shingles came off the roof.

This house is falling apart.

And we knew that when we bought it, but becomes more and more obvious as time passes. The circumstances give us a big push to get started.

We’ve got a deadline.

Form, Function, and Finances

Our mowers, our snowblower, and our tiller live under a tarp.  There is no room under roof to house them.  The big barn is consumed by Husband’s business, and the small barn contains the rabbits, the extra freezer, and our manual tools.

As Husband develops a plan to build our house, he has many tools in mind.  But when even the equipment we have must remain outdoors all winter, where are we to store additional items?

A barn!  A barn!  My kingdom for a barn!

Okay, I don’t have a kingdom.  And if I did, I doubt I’d give it up for a barn.

Anyway.

The rabbit barn floods in the spring, when the snow melts and the rains fall.  The plan then, is to build a larger barn on higher ground, and take down the rabbit barn.  (We wouldn’t mind keeping it, but building codes dictate a maximum of two outbuildings.)

I love the look of a barn with a gambrel roof.  It is what the rabbit barn has, and I find it a pleasing design.  It seems that’s what a barn ought to look like.  So, I said I wanted something like this:

image from keystonebarns.com

But Husband found that gambrel roof barns cost about 30 percent more than barns with regular roofs.  And the cost was a lot higher than I expected, having never built a barn before.  I considered lowering my expectations and getting a barn without the classic gambrel roof.  Something like this:

image from barntoolbox.com

But the more we thought about it, the more we realized that if we spent money on a barn, it would be just that much longer before we were able to make our house a reality.

Because this is too tiny to live in:

house modelAn agreement was made.  For now, we’ll get a temporary shelter for the equipment.  Something like this:

(Except without the car, of course.)

And for the new tools and for work space while husband labors on the house we’ll also get something like this:

It’s not as pretty, but it’s much more economical, and that will allow us to get started on the house sooner.

Someday, we’ll build a pretty barn.  But today, finances win.

Planning a Transformation

SONY DSC

Y’all remember our gross pool?

SONY DSC

With all the thistles in the summer?

Well, we hope to do something about that next spring and summer.  Our hope is to cover the pool with a deck or something.  We’re not sure we want to fill it in, because someday we may want to use it.  But right now, it’s all just an eyesore.

If we cover it, the area becomes usable space for chairs or tables.  We’d like to take down the fence and get rid of all the weeds.

SONY DSC

We’ve got a chicken yard on one side of the poultry barn, and we’ll probably add another on the other side as we increase our flock.  So part of the north side of the fence may remain as part of the chicken fence.  But we’re hoping the rest will come down; it would really open up the sight-lines on the property.

Maybe someday we’ll have a pool.  But for now, we’d like to enjoy as much of our property as we can.

May Update

Posted on

When I go for runs, last year’s corn fields are a patchwork of color. This one is brown with remnants of old corn stalks. That one is freshly plowed with green spears of new corn popping up. And the next is covered with yellow flowers – mustard flower or goldenrod or something.

My back yard is green, green, green. The grass melts into the woods behind, and the interstate is finally obscured by foliage. Birds nesting in a hole in the side of the house chatter and chirp and screech at each other as they fly in and out. In the distance, goats bleat, and next door, the horses whinny and snort and gallop. Giant carpenter bees deafen me with their buzzing, and frogs in the dilapidated pool warble and croak, drowning out other night noises.

Though I haven’t checked on them lately, Husband tells me the chickens are getting big and feathering out, and the bunnies are turning into eating machines. Need to get the chicken coop and the rabbit run built.

I’ve seen flowers blooming that I didn’t know we had; daffodils earlier this spring, plus a few tulips. I discovered a peony bush, and I planted some resurrection lilies and some irises around the bird feeders I set up, as well as some echinacea and butterfly weed. Sunflowers will soon make a border along the road in front of our house.

The gardens have been tilled and planting has begun. Potatoes and corn are in. Hills have been hoed for the pumpkins and squashes. One of these days I’ll help Husband to do more planting. It’s hard sometimes after nine hours at school; I want to collapse on the couch and have someone else make me dinner, but the grass is ankle-high so I need to mow, and Husband has been working hard all day, too. Frozen pizza dinners are anything but rare around here.

My summer job list is long, and mostly involves cleaning up things that never got properly done when we moved in last summer. Certain things just got piled as we worked on getting other spaces ready. Husband’s shop is nearing completion, so now it’s time to tidy all the stuff that looks like junk. (And the stuff that actually is junk needs to be hauled away.) Need to pull out landscape timbers and river rock that was meant to border flower gardens but instead just prevents a proper mowing job and gives weeds a place to flourish.

Monday Night Dinners, our weekly tradition for the last eight or ten years, may be a thing of the past, and we look to new ways to show hospitality in a more remote area that seems to discourage regular visitors but may welcome occasional masses of guests for big get-togethers. A friend suggested a quarterly party, and we ponder what that might look like. For summer, it will be basketball and volleyball once we get the equipment ready. Camp-outs are a possibility, especially now that the outhouse is ready for use. We shall see.

I sit on the back porch regularly, enjoying the view and the sounds. Loving this property. Thanking God for what he has given us.