Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Wood Worries

Every couple days, we move more wood from the piles to the porch.
Our activities for the past few days have focused on staying warm, which means many hours lingering and reading in the loft, but also hours tending to the wood stove, restocking the woodpile on the front porch and wondering if we cut enough wood to make it to spring. All we can really do is wait and see. If we run short, plenty of dead stuff is lying around our 5 acres. It won’t burn as nicely as the red oak that warms us now, but it’ll do.

After this pile is gone, we have just four left. Gulp.
This winter isn’t colder than those past, but it seems we’ve had a longer stretch of particularly cold days. The wood stove finally got a break yesterday, when we hit a sunny 46 and we let the stove go cold while we headed out into our woods to start the Great Firewood Hunt for Winter 2018-2019. We took down a 75-footer; we thought it was oak, but now we're not certain. But it's a hardwood, so come next winter, it'll burn nicely! But today, we’re back inside by the fire. We hit a high of 35 before noon and now, just a few hours later, it’s 29 and snowing.

The 75-foot tree we felled yesterday fell off its stump but then got hung up in other trees. That's Mason contemplating how we we're going to get it down to the ground. We ended up tying a steel cable to it and another big tree to the right and used a "come-along" to tighten the cable, eventually clearing the tangled tree and bringing it crashing down to the forest floor. We then spent nearly three hours cutting it all up. Yes, we're sore today.
So far our road repairs and new gravel are holding up nicely.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

MacBook, How We Love Thee

I spend a lot of time in this chair, under that blanket.
Evening entertainment provided by "The Sopranos" DVDs.
Mason's usually back there on that stool, reading on the smartphone
about the latest most awful thing that man in D.C. has done. 
We have joyfully rejoined the righteous clan of MacBook owners, and as a result of the luxury expenditure, I have made a pledge to update this blog more often. You notice I call it a pledge and not a resolution, because I’m posting this one week later than planned. Ahem.

It’s not as if I’ve been swamped, either. This is winter, after all, when Flat Top productivity grinds to a halt, with its feet up in front of the wood stove, which has been burning nonstop for several weeks now. The Arctic blast has us holed up like rabbits in a winter warren. We’re finally catching up on our New Yorker magazines, knocking out a few books. (I recommend “Dreams From My Father,” by Obama — the contrast between his thoughtful explorations and those of today’s president are almost too painful to bear.) We spend most afternoons up in the loft, where it can almost feel like a warm summer day, especially if I’ve turned on the oven for a slow, low burn on a Dutch oven full of meat for Mason.

We have left the mountain only once in the past two weeks, and left the house only to walk Nick and restock the front porch woodpile. This has been an unseasonably long stretch of cold here, and the larger woodpiles out in the yard are disappearing so quickly that we’re starting to wonder whether we have enough stockpiled to get us through the season.

Our beloved Nick, and his door obsession. 
Nick remains our sole, desperately needed object of distraction. Unfortunately, his rapidly deteriorating state has added some level of drama to the interaction. Twice in the past two weeks, we’ve been in the kitchen when we’ve heard a ruckus and turned to see his back legs dangling off the loft.  We raced to his rescue, and have temporarily added a piece of lumber to prevent a three-peat. He also has developed a dementia of sorts; if he’s not napping upstairs, he’s at one of the doors, pawing it politely to be let out. But often, when we open the door, he walks to the door’s hinges and can’t figure how to get out. We play this game at least a dozen times a day.

A sneak peek of the stair project.
Over our evening beers, we contemplate upcoming projects. First up is Mason’s truck, which decided to die on us in town after we had it loaded with lumber, groceries and Christmas goodies. The lumber is for finishing the deck stair project, which has been on hold simply because there’s no reason to work out there when it’s 30 degrees. And the winter’s chill has us plotting to upgrade the back door to a properly insulated door, rather than the interior French doors we used because, when we got here seven years ago, we may not have really known what we were doing.

Do we know what we’re doing now, you wonder? Yeah, we wonder, too. 



Sunday, December 3, 2017

Goddamn PCs

We've been a bit silent here because we stupidly tried to save money and bought a PC instead of a Mac when our ancient MacBook died. After months of pure agony, we've decided we must bite the bullet and return to the Mac world, but we're waiting for those post-Christmas sales.

So here's the quick two-month update. Let's see if I can get this $(&%#! computer to post before it crashes yet again:

1. A beautiful fall here! The past 10 days have been sunny and 60s. The vegetable garden is still putting out greens, and the carrot harvest was spectacular, just in time for Thanksgiving.

2. Visitors abound! We had two sets of friends come in from Minnesota. We put Jackie and Chris to work on helping us build a stairway to the upstairs deck. The project got off to a slow start, but we should have it done soon. And Karen and Dino arrived during a cold snap, so they were spared hard labor and had to spend their weekend drinking beer and playing cards.

3. We took a quick trip to see Mason's family in Texas. While we were there, we built and installed a barn door, helped to clean out closets and ate at all of Mason's favorite haunts.

4. And when we returned home, we had a good stretch of dry weather, so we got all of the fall leaves raked and shredded. An acre's worth. Last year it took until March before we finished, so we're feeling very accomplished.

I don't dare try to push my luck any further. The next update will have to wait until we have that new iPad or MacBook in our hands. I'll add photos later, IF this $(&%#! computer lets me.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Tired and Little To Show For It

A zinnia that somehow survived the deer and rabbits.
I'm too tired to write. The garden and yard have been kicking my ass, not to mention the summer-like temperatures that refuse to acknowledge that it's autumn. And tomorrow a 3,500-pound piece of rented machinery is arriving for three days of attempting to create ditches on both sides of our small road, which got wiped out nearly two years ago in the downpours of Christmas 2015. More on that adventure once we recover from it.

Below are just a couple snapshots. Nothing too exciting.

Beware the cucumelon. I planted three seeds and the damn things took over.  

We're still getting a few strawberries. They're small but super sweet.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Summer's End

The carport got bigger. Gravel "flooring" still in the works.
The long days of August finally have loosened their hold on us; the humidity is easing and we are starting to think beyond the basics of water (for both ourselves and all of the plants), shade and forever longing for any breeze.

Just last week we celebrated in the shadow of the moon at midday. Our Flat Top cabin sat just on the southern border of totality, and we marked the occasion with good friends and an excessive amount of home-cooked food featuring all of the tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs from the garden. Oh, and all that garlic? It's won its place in my garden every year. I vow to never use doughy dry garlic again.

The Little Lime Hydrangea took a beating from the deer, but it's still a winner!
(There's a snake story behind that firewood pile, but I want Michiela to visit someday, so I won't share it.)
On the flower front, hardy lantana is my new best friend: resistant to both deer and rabbit, not to mention dry conditions. Let's see how it fares a winter, though. And a few zinnias finally rebounded from the wildlife feeding. It wouldn't be summer without zinnias.

Helenium: It's a winner for the fall garden.
While I've toiled in the garden, among both vegetables and shrubbery, Mason has continued to hammer away at the carport. (OK, he used screws, not nails, but I'm being poetic, damn it.) Initial plans to sell the 19-year-old Jeep Cherokee were met with male emotional resistance and thus, as soon as Mason finished the carport, he started the extension. 

Lime Zest sedum. Get it. Great texture!
While horrified by the Hurricane Harvey devastation, we are thankful for its spitting remains reviving all our living things. The fall seeds are in the ground -- broccoli, chard, kale, beets, lettuce and more. This rainfall is the perfect gift for them. As for us, we knock out a project every day (new horseshoe pit JUST installed!) and looking forward to a scheduled visit with Minnesota friends.

Mason chillin' on the porch. Yes, he's wearing shorts. They just happen to be tan.

Monday, July 3, 2017

More Rain, Less Progress

This was my first year growing garlic; it will cure for two months hanging from the porch rafters.

We have entered the phase of summer where we work for about 40 minutes, after which the humidity sits our asses back down to contemplate our life choices. Then we get back to work again, only to get rained out. Somewhere in there is eating lunch, catching up on New Yorker magazines, napping, then heading back out to sweat once again.

The gladiolas (that the deer or bunnies didn't eat).

Today's work started with weed management (always at the top of Nan's list). After a brief rest, Mason joined in to help hang the first of the garlic harvest from the porch rafters, where the bulbs will cure for a few months. Lunch was turkey, bacon and avocado sandwiches. And just as Mason was getting started on his portion of weed management and I was pruning the lavender, the late afternoon rain came calling.

Tomorrow's schedule? Lather, rinse, repeat.

My gardenia; let's see if I can keep it alive!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Off-Street Parking

Nope, it's not the Bunkhouse. Not yet! First Mason tested his skills on a carport.

Mason loves a big project, and he had been thinking about this one all winter.

First, some background: Every time we drive into town, Mason is compulsively driven to pick off all the pine needles and forest debris that have collected on the car. It's as if he's a vampire and the pine needles are the sunflower seeds. (He also can't walk past my sneakers on the back porch without untying them for me. Yes, the man has issues, but sometimes, they work out in my favor.)

Mason knows he has issues, but he also knows he is sick of picking off pine needles. Then there's the matter of the occasional leaky sunroof on the Jeep. And the hail storms, did I mention those? And I should also mention his new (1988) pickup.

Anyway, he spent all winter dreaming of a carport, and this spring he pulled the trigger.

This was a big project. Multiple kinds of saws were needed. There were electrical wires to run. And most importantly, the big project involved "a first" -- the first time Mason has got to do something. In this case, it was building roof trusses.

But as you can see from the photo above, once you build the 20-foot trusses, then comes the tricky part: How to get them up -- and upright -- atop the 8-foot-tall frame of the new carport. All I can say is MacGyver's got nothing on Mason. Of course, MacGyver didn't have Sidekick Nan, who expended every ounce of aging shoulder muscle to help get those trusses up and in place. 

The carport is nearly done now. It's even got lights that we can flip on from the house (I've caught Mason turning them off and on at night, after he thought I'd gone to bed.) But I don't have a photo for you just yet. The final trim pieces aren't up. Soon, though.

But, if you're reading this, you've been very patient for a blog update. So I can at least deliver a few photos of other things.

Jackmanni clematis (you can kind of see carport roof in far background, between the cabin and the shed.)

Annabelle hydrangeas, and a basket of annuals atop a tree stump.
This lizard has taken to staging himself atop this piece of wood and surveying his/our domain.

This weeping Norway Spruce was about 2 feet tall when I bought it our first year here.
It's now pushing 7 feet! I've installed a little fence at its feet because
Nick keeps killing off the lowest growth by peeing on it. I love this tree.